By Andrea Vandiver, Contributing Writer
I grew up in a peculiar kind of community. It wasn’t just a friendly neighbourhood or a close-knit church. It was a village. It was a culture.
It was awesome.
I’ve moved away and have a different life now, but I still crave some of the experiences I had as a child. I miss the support during life changes. I miss the love from family-like friends.
It just doesn’t seem as easy as it used to be, and I have a theory on why: technology.
Isn’t it odd how you can go months or years without talking to someone but yet you know pretty much everything about their life? Yep. That’s social media for ya. We watch our friends’ children grow up through it. We send happy birthdays, congratulations and condolences through it.
Our phones, ever attached to our hips, make it possible to send a text when a phone call would be better. Or make a call when an in-person visit would express our true sentiments.
The constant stream of new stories has also created a general sense of fear or distrust toward people we don’t know (me included… paranoid mom here). We’re not as apt to get to know our neighbours or follow our gut instinct to help out a stranger we meet.
And you know what? I think all of that is stealing a part of life that just can’t be replaced: genuine human interaction. Technology is great in so many ways, but only if we use it wisely.
The most important lesson I’ve learned in life so far is that the only person you can truly change is yourself. (So I’m preaching to me.) But if you feel the itch to bring back the old ways of community, here are 6 things you can start doing TODAY.
6 Ways to Bring Back the Village
1. Handwritten cards
I love sending and receiving mail, and I’ve started sending thank-you cards when I’m blessed by something someone else has done for us. It’s actually made me more thankful and more attentive to the little things.
I created a note in my phone titled “thank you notes” and jot down a name when I need to so I don’t forget. A handwritten sympathy card goes a long way. Or a birthday card instead of being one of the hundreds of people to write on their Facebook wall.
(I’ve also started intentionally buying funny stamps. Maybe nobody notices but it makes me giggle every time I mail something off.)
2. Postpartum care
When I was growing up, a woman who had a baby was expected to rest and be cared for over the first 10 days. Women (friends, aunts, mother, etc) would rotate shifts, being there to clean, cook, care for older children or to help out with the newborn.
New moms can be hesitant to ask for help and I think part of the cause of postpartum depression is a lack of support. (P.S. Women who have miscarriages need help too.)
3. Bringing meals
A birth. A death. A move. An illness. A deployment. Experience any of these and you’ll quickly realize how difficult it is to simply provide food for your family, let alone a quality meal. Food is an emotional thing. It bonds us. Stay and eat together or simply drop it off.
When you don’t know what to do, bringing a meal is a safe bet.
4. Adopt a family in need
If I’m not careful, I can get overwhelmed by the needs of the world. There’s so much to be done and so little I can actually do. But we can’t let it paralyze us into doing nothing. Start small – a widow who needs help around the house or a babysitter so she can run errands. A family whose kids are at just the right age to receive hand-me-downs. An older couple who don’t have children to look in on them.
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 KJV
5. Visiting the elderly
In my opinion, one of the greatest tragedies of our time is our aversion to aging. We are obsessed with staying young. But old age is magical. It should be welcomed and gleaned from.
I will never forget running with my little sisters across the street to bring some cookies to an older couple. We’d visit about what life was like when they were growing up. We were fascinated by the fact that they lived without refrigeration for a time. We would quiz them on how they stored meat and how they literally drew water from their well. They exuded wisdom and we soaked it up. But I think they enjoyed having us too. A spark of youth and laughter gave them just what they needed.
It really does take a village to raise a child. Finding a good friend is like finding a needle in a haystack, but if you find a friend who you trust to care for your children then you’ve found one needle in a thousand haystacks.
Once you have, borrow each other’s children. The kids love it and the moms need the break. Have a free afternoon? Text a mom friend and ask if she wants to drop the kids off to play. Do you work outside the home? Offer to babysit for a date night. Do you work at home? Offer to keep the kids when daycare is closed. In a world when families don’t always live near each other, we need backup. And a backup for our backup. Be that for someone.
This list could go on forever. But it’s not meant to be a list to check off. Quite the opposite. Just some inspiration to slow down and look for your own ways to bring people closer to you. We need each other. We aren’t meant do life alone.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne, MEDITATION XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
Andrea Vandiver is a work-at-home mom and freelance writer in Oklahoma. She spends her days imitating animals and blowing bubbles. Her favorite things are those that taste, smell, feel, sound and look wonderful. The stuff that romance is made of.
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