Back in 1996, Hillary Clinton wrote a book entitled It Takes a Village. A naive 24 year old at the time, I thought the concept ludicrous and outlandish. The idea that I would need an entire village to raise my child seemed downright insulting. Of course, that was before I had children. That was well before I understood, with great empathy and thankfulness, that a village is exactly what it takes.
In light of yesterday’s tragedy in Connecticut, the truth of this is painfully applicable. When I heard the news, I have to confess that it knocked the wind right out of me. For several moments, I struggled with a great weight on my chest and I fought against the reality that assaulted my idyllic life. As the day trudged on, I wrestled internally trying to make sense of it, trying to see God’s hand, trying to discern his breath amidst the loss. The truth is, there is no sense. But the truth is also that there is God’s hand. Somewhere. Although I can’t see it now, I’m certain it’s there. And as I searched, a truth occurred to me both tragic and comforting. A glimpse of God’s grace in my own life and family.
I think it’s safe to assume that in order for the young man responsible for this tragedy to carry out such a horrific course, there was a gaping failure somewhere along the way. As I see it, one of two scenarios dominated this young man’s life. Either he didn’t have a village, or the village failed him. Both of these possibilities are terribly disheartening. You see, thirteen years of parenting have shown me that a village is not just desirable, it’s critical. The more people around our children, the more individuals who know them, their propensities, their inclinations and their struggles, the more encouragement and accountability there is. What if our young shooter would’ve had that kind of involvement? What if someone had been watching for signs, for inconsistencies, for pain and hurt? What if someone, anyone had recognized even a small diversion from an otherwise straight path? What if his village had been on diligent watch?
Hillary Clinton may have written the book, but the early Christians owned the idea. Acts 2:44 says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Being a believer for the better part of my life, the verse has always led to a quick association with material possessions. I’ve pictured the early Christians sharing food, clothing, shelter and other very tangible resources. But I expect I haven’t grasped the fullness of the verse until now. In actuality, I imagine that the primitive yet untainted followers had so much more than just material possessions in common. They had struggles in common, they had victories in common, they had emotions in common. And they had child-rearing in common. As they “were together”, the children would’ve benefited from the wisdom, experience and love of, not just their parents, but all the elders around them. They would’ve soaked up all the richness and beauty of the village. Centuries later, we can see just what that village produced. Our faith, our very certainty in a loving God finds many of its roots in a profound village that shouldered their responsibility with great strength and grace.
I love my village and my gratitude to them is well beyond mere words. There is a circle of friends and family around my children that is irreplaceable. There are grandparents who share the wisdom of their years and infuse daily a sense of perspective and legacy. There are aunts and uncles who find glimpses of themselves in a younger generation and nurture selflessly. There are friends, who act more like family, who engage and guide my children, never stopping to consider that those children are not their own.
My village is unwavering in its commitment to my children. My village sees the worst and tirelessly commits to altering it into the best. My village always loves, always perseveres and always hopes. My village is the very hands and feet of Christ. My village rocks.
While the events in Connecticut shake us to the very core, there is another tragedy at hand. There are children in every corner of this world that have no village. From New York to Nepal and Budapest to Bangladesh, there are children who are emotionally alone and it breaks my heart. My prayer for our world is that the pervasive curse of loneliness would be lifted. That villages would rise up around the brokenhearted and that Acts 2:44 would come profoundly to life. What an amazing change we would witness if we were truly together and had all things in common. While it may seem like wishful thinking, I’m an optimist and if my village is any indication, then I’d like to believe that anything is possible.