By Deborah Robertson
I am sure there is no one in America who hasn't by now, heard the clique, "It takes a village to raise a child"; but as with most cliques, it's cute, catchy, makes for a good bumper sticker, but never goes any deeper than lip service. We buy into the principle, but yet, a large majority of us lament about the world going to the devil in a basket, stick our chest out and say, "Well I raised mine", as though that is enough. We drop our chins and gasp at the trends and fashions of our youth, tattoos, and earrings in places we used to never even show in public, let alone pierced or painted. We cup our ears and grimace our faces with their music as our children seek out ways to express themselves, just as we did and our parents before us.
The problem is that times have changed. Never before has a generation faced so many factors aimed towards their ultimate extinction as with today's child; drugs, teen pregnancy, gang violence, and a penal system continuously enlarging itself in competition with our colleges and universities, awaiting the arrival of our babies at younger and younger ages. The future of our youth looks dismal at best, but where is the "Village" when our children are in crises?
Most recently, I began to look at my life from a different angle. For many years, I had selfishly taken all of the credit for being the single mom raising 4 children alone, (my apologies to the Village–I couldn't have done it alone). When the last one left the nest, far be it from me to complain. I thought I could now rest on my laurels and hope the kids did a good job raising the grand kids so I could just play grandma, do all the fun stuff and send them home. I had settled quite comfortably in the "middle-aged, living in the big house by herself, white carpet, neighbor next door" role.
It's easy to complain, sit and do nothing, but unless we change and develop a village mentality, we will look back one day and the once vibrant village will be a ghost town. I realized that I needed to do something. I didn't have to go out and fight gang violence or wage protest with the music industry, I could effect small groups of children at a time by simply getting involved.
I began to spend time with my young nieces and nephews. I remember the first time I took them hiking, what a treat, they had never been on a river trail. The youngest child thought we were in Africa, the moss covered logs floating lazily in the river were alligators and the low hanging branches were for crossing the river. We encountered a family of turtles, various species of birds, (African of course) and other creatures darting across the pathways.
During the 3 hour hike we ate sack lunches and talked. I had a chance to talk to them about life. I inquired about school, friends and listened to goals they had set for themselves. The rest of that summer, I was the most popular Aunt and they proudly boasted to the other cousins of our excursion. I eventually made 3 different trips with 3 different sets of nieces and nephews.
This year I have already begun to plan train rides, picnics at the beach and other surprises. I have also decided to branch out of my family and get to know some of the neighborhood children. Spend some time with some of the kids at church as well as donate time at an area school or youth club.
Our children are our future. Granted each of us has different talents and skill levels. Whereas, you may not be comfortable counseling children who have already headed in the wrong direction, it is incumbent upon each of us to leave a trail for those who may later choose to follow. It's not about money, designer labels or material possessions, but it's letting a child know they are special through the investment of your most precious commodity, your time.
It's not enough in life to have achieved personal success during your stay on the planet. But the true test of success is how many torches did you light and pass on that are still burning bright long after you are gone? At this point in my life I look back and see many villagers who invested in me. I remember each lesson each of them taught me, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, they passed something on in me, I in turn must pass it on to others.
Make a commitment, make an investment, spend quality time with a child today. I'll agree, statistics may look dismal for our youth and some would go as far as to say there is no hope. But it's our village, don't board it up yet. If each of us would light a small fire in just one child today, we can without a doubt, ensure a brighter tomorrow for us all.
Deborah Robertson is an author, speaker and creator of a popular success series called, "Destined to Be A Diamond". For additional information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Printe in Volume 1 Issue 7