We Need A Village
by valerie cabadonga
My parents raised my brothers and I to be family-oriented children.
At a very young age, the importance of family is instilled in our values. One of the family rules is that Christmas season will always, always be spent with family. No excuses.
Last Christmas, we had the honour and privilege of hosting a Christmas celebration with our extended family, and this extended family is like no other.
My mother always say that ‘family goes beyond blood’ and this is what this family is — not birthed from blood but from friendships lasting 20 years and counting. Growing up, my childhood and teenage years were filled with memories of them. I have gained sisters, brothers, uncles and aunties that I treasure with all my heart. Through those years, I have witnessed a bond full of love, support, acceptance, encouragement, guidance and A LOT of laughter.
According to an African Proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” which means raising a child is a communal effort.
When watching National Geographic episodes on ancient rural villages, I am always in awe at how their culture is embedded in their identity. Everyone functions in the same values and looks out for one another, especially as each individual creatively and uniquely takes on their roles. The village becomes a place of provision, support and love.
In the ancient times, villages are largely made up of close and distant relatives but in our modern days and modern ways, each person makes up their own village consisting of their family and trustworthy friends, sometimes our village changes as the seasons of our lives do.
As a young kid, we wake up in a nurturing environment that is naturally composed of our biological families and friends. But as we grow up, we practice our ability to choose who gets to be involved in our lives. In our teenage years and sometimes the twenties, our peers are the greatest influencers while family (especially parents) are ranked the least.
Having to spend Christmas with a big chunk of my big and crazy extended family, I have come to realise that, even at the age of 24, I still want to consciously wake up in a loving and supportive environment like when I was a child. To be in a village full of love and encouragement that when I run dry in faith, I will find hope from theirs.
The relationship that I have witnessed between each member of this extended family and the ones I have formed among them have set the bar on many of my friendships. It has become my blueprint on how to treat people with kindness, generosity and love. I believe that their love and support, together with my biological family, has been one of the strongest influences in my life.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT) is usually used to describe a marital or romantic relationship that puts God at the centre. It goes like this:
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.
But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.
but how can one be warm alone?
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.
Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
However, the bond described in this verse is something that I have witnessed in the village that I grew up in and something that we should practice into the other relationships that we have and make. Fostering these kinds of bonds form the villages that shape our lives.
"Even in the midst of being independent, we all need a village that can become our foot stools, hand rails and compasses in our journey."
Outside of this family, I strongly practiced self-sufficiency and it has been a blessing and a challenge for me. Most of the time, I try to keep my struggles to myself and solve my problems using one brain. But like the saying “two heads are better than one,” I am learning that growth cannot be accomplished with self-sufficiency alone but with interdependence, where our independence is as important as our dependence on the love, support, and encouragement from others and on God. Even in the midst of being independent, we all need a village that can become our foot stools, hand rails and compasses in our journey.
At any stage of our lives, it is best to be surrounded by the people who wish the best for us. People who encourage us when we are at our lowest, walk with us through our valleys, and celebrate in our highest.
So, what should make our village? It should be made up of individuals that:
- Encourage you to be the best version of yourself
- Choose to tell you the hardest truth than sugar-coated lies
- Have and function in the same (or similar) values as you
- Point you to righteous living and towards the direction of your dreams, and God and His purpose for your life.
With the new year and a new chapter in our hands, I encourage us to start afresh. As one of my New Year’s resolution, I plan on growing and having a healthier, loving and encouraging village.
"To have something new is to start a change within ourselves."
To have something new is to start a change within ourselves. To have a great village filled with nurturing relationships, we need to be those great people that we seek. Let us be the type of friends who says take care and actually do. Let’s be the type of people who asks how are you and actually mean it. Let's be the type of gals who choose to give hope, grace and spread kindness as much as we spread peanut butter in our PBnJs.
I strongly believe that the environment that we choose to surround ourselves will make or break our wellbeing and our works in progress.
Just like the saying “family is what you make it,” your village is what you make it. It doesn’t matter if it’s big and crazy (and includes two furry friends like mine), or small and intimate. What matters is your village will be the people who stands with you when everyone else turns their backs. Because honestly, even though we have aged, we are still children of God and we need a village to raise us up from strength to strength, from season after season.
And a quick tip: our villages provide a much loving environment with the wisest counsel. It’s better to have the hardest truths than the sweetest lies. So, I encourage you to include your parents in your village. They may not be perfect but in my experience, they have given many wise advices that I could honestly say to my 16-year-old self, “Really listen to mum and dad. Their advice makes perfect sense and girl, you’re gonna need some help! So, just listen..like…okay?”