It takes a Village...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

“It takes a village to raise a child.” While the origin of this statement is disputed – some attributing it to Hilary Clinton with others referring back to several African cultures for its creation – we can all agree that the words certainly ring true. The idea that raising a child is communal, that one parent is not the only influencer a child will have – that is something true in every culture.

I’ve recently become a parent, and I am seeing this play out in the decisions I make. Who do I want to babysit? Who will we hang out with on free days? Who can I trust to teach my children the same values I’ve begun to embed in their lives? How does one make these important decisions? It’s an ongoing process for sure, and one that no parent should take lightly.

We at the Blytheville School District concern ourselves in this same way when choosing the “Village” supporting our students. The needs of children go so far beyond their academics, although those are of utmost importance! Students need to feel safe and taken care of, on top of their basic physiological needs like eating. We strive to fulfill these needs while students are in our care. Recently a group has been formed for the purpose of building the Blytheville community and surrounding our students with support from every angle. They call themselves – are you ready? – The Villagers. I absolutely love this. This group consists of retired teachers and administrators, ministers, and other citizens of Blytheville who have accepted the call of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a. Allow me to take you to church for a minute! The verses state, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” I’ll go a little further and share the next few verses with you: “But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

What a picture. We’ve all fallen in our lives, in a literal, physical sense, but also in an emotional sense. We’ve made mistakes or tripped up. We’ve been disappointed and have disappointed others. When you think about times when you’ve fallen, what difference did it make for someone else to be there? Did they help you up? Did they laugh at you, or talk about what a terrible person you were for falling? These verses shed light on that picture so beautifully. When we fall, the best possible response is to get back up, but it’s certainly easier and more effective when someone reaches out a hand to help us up.

The Villagers have done exactly that for our schools. They have surrounded Blytheville District with support, and are constantly working to build a greater Blytheville, starting with the schools. This group has been in the schools speaking with parents, surveying to discover current needs, volunteering their time, and mentoring students. They are reaching out to students who have fallen and helping them up, and then guiding them as they get back on track. The Villagers are a perfect picture of community, and they have certainly given evidence to the truth that two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.

While they deserve all the accolades in the world, that is not the only intent of this article. Reading this does nothing for you, except inform you of something going on in your community. The Villagers are doing invaluable work in our schools, but it doesn’t end with one group. While two are certainly better than one, three are better than two! I invite you to become our village. Come to our schools and get involved. Volunteer to be a mentor. Come read to a class. Greet the students as they come in each morning and show them that their community supports them! The work of shaping children’s lives is never done, and, as we all know, it takes a village.