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“It takes a village to raise a child. ” This is one of the African proverbs that has resonated with me in recent times. It first registered about two or three years ago. I know that I wondered a number of times if it was true or just one of those high-sounding empty quotes.
Reflecting on our early days in the village, it made sense. In this close-knit community, every woman was considered a mother to every child, and every man was regarded as a father figure to all the kids. If you did something wrong, you could get punished by an onlooker. Most people represented the parents in their absence. When we left the village for holidays or to study in the urban areas, it became even more interesting. Community members who were aware of the trip would make food packs in bags and bowls for us. “The children should not go hungry in a strange land”, they’d say. It did not matter that one could not carry so much food on a trip. Upon return, it was almost customary that neighbours would bring food in the mornings or evenings to make one feel at home again.
One of the most memorable traditions for me was the unwritten rule that one family did not eat a special meal alone. If my mother finished preparing the food by 9 pm, she would send us to deliver portions to our neighbours before we all settled to eat. How these errand delivery sessions went is a story for another day. But yes, I was a child of the world and every home was mine. I could connect with it at that level.
It was more challenging to connect this to life in the city where everyone was in a haste and on a mission to accomplish something. Everyone minded the business that paid them. Being the fast learner that I am, I took this lesson to heart. In fact, I found applications for this level of independence in unchartered territories. And I reaped the benefits and consequences that ensued.
But why am I writing about this? Because the value for this strong solitude and individualism, which became my rock, is being challenged. Perhaps, I have the chance to reconsider my adventurous approach and instead, prefer what we shared back home. Maybe I just envision a fusion of both worlds, a more balanced approach…
We are brilliant as individuals and will always need our unique, authentic contributions and presence in a variety of spaces. We will equally need the community that is committed to our wellbeing. This could be circles of friends, mentors, coaches, or devoted observers. Who we are, becomes the rich mix of the offerings of these people that surround us.
It is a journey of learning, exposure and self-discovery. It is an experience of undoubted separateness in this sea of collectiveness. It is the fun of working to balance or not balance the contribution of these realities. Because it takes a village…