One week after my husband deployed my little boy amputated the upper portion of his index finger on his dominant hand. The moments that followed were full of searching (literally searching for the missing finger), a visit to the less than near emergency room, a helicopter ride, a surgery, and really the rest is Murphy- engulfed- history. My mind was not really in a place of hopeful logic during the hours that followed. I hesitantly waited for the despair to hit, the overwhelming emptiness to consume my current “ survival mode shock.”
I was alone.
As soon as I reached the hospital that was nearly 4 hours away via helicopter from my family, whom I was visiting when the accident occurred, a nurse told me there were two people waiting to see me in the waiting room. I looked at her like a child who had just been tricked into thinking it was Christmas when really it was only June.
“I’m alone,” I told her, “my family has to be at least three hours behind,” and then I saw them.
My Brother-in-law, a decorated veteran, appeared in the hospital doorway along with his wife. They lived an hour away and though I hadn’t called anyone somehow they found out, and jumped in their car immediately to meet me. They understood. They showed up for me, and that made all the difference.
A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives. Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: “You are my hands.”
As a collective, we as parents HAVE to be united in our cooperative efforts to raise the next generation of leaders, business owners, and advocates. I daresay we are too often used to the “raising my child happens strictly within my own four walls” mentality – but that also means we are well acquainted with that ever irking feeling of loneliness, overwhelm, and even doubt…until someone shows up for us.
In the days after arriving home from the hospital, I woke up one morning in a panic because I had forgotten it was trash day…again. I rushed outside only to realize that my trash cans were already placed next to the road waiting to be picked up. I also noticed a yellow balloon tied to my door handle. I brought the balloon inside to give it to a little boy with 9 ½ fingers whose face beamed at its sight. I later learned that the balloon had been placed there by a woman I knew, but not well. A few days prior to my son’s accident, her son had also been involved in a much larger scale accident. Her son had accidentally fallen off a cliff while riding a dirt bike, breaking many bones in his body, and astonishing all by just surviving. She, this woman who had clearly been through more than I had, showed up for me. And people continued showing up for me.
That year, with my husband deployed, was rough. There was the time my baby had surgery and I came home to a fresh meal on my table. Or the time when my little girl broke her arm, yet that seemed to slip her memory as soon as she saw the stickers someone had left for her under my doormat. The service continued. People continued to show up for me. They ate cereal with me for dinner. They drank gallons of soda with me. These angels, their hands, they embraced me, they pulled me in. They became my village.
The concept of a village is not always so revered. We move to new neighborhoods, hear scary things on the news, and reason that the potential for harm overshadows the potential for help in our respective spheres. We shut our doors and pray that communication with someone we can relate to will miraculously happen, or worse, we lose faith that it ever will. We want and we NEED a village but we lack courage in finding it, or worse, we let our minds convince us that such a camaraderie doesn’t exist anymore, but the world is FULL OF VILLAGES.
So how do we find a place of our own full of love, growth, and hope? Here are three actions we can take in order to experience the encompassing love and refuge of our own personal villages.
Find your village
How does one go about discovering a village? And not just any village, but one that will embrace us with open arms and value our unique individuality. The answer is simple: LOOK. Nothing good or worthwhile comes without effort. You know that thing on the internet that reminds you daily that connection is not merely something that happens in the tangible world? It’s called social media. Facebook, believe it or not, has fostered the construction of many beautiful villages. Ones that reach has transcended the cyber world and actually shown up on doorsteps, and park play dates. Sometimes these connections, though they were born on screens and fed by keyboards, grow to be beautiful supportive friendships.
Do you need a village? We invite you to join the 7S Community. Here we hold hands with people from across the globe and foster hope in the collective good of hard work, learning together, and sharing ideas. Our village thrives because of the people who live there, and we welcome you.
Fortify your village
The village mentality does not begin and end with simply finding a community to call your own. Once we join these communities it is our responsibility to build up and strengthen them. How do you strengthen your village? You have to show up. Showing up doesn’t always mean planting yourself on a doorstep with a dozen homemade cookies. Showing up can simply mean answering a question, validating feelings, and offering your unique insight and perspective. Though this sounds simple, how many times have we failed to “show up” because we either render our voices unimportant or we fail to make the time to help? We can’t do that anymore. Someone needs the answer that you have. Someone needs to know that you’ve been in their shoes. Someone needs YOU. We can’t be quiet any longer. We have to start showing up for our villages.
Fortifying our communities also comes with strategic sacrifice. It’s true we need a village, a community, human connections. BUT ultimately our villages, communities, and connections should be those that lift us, encourage us, teach us, and motivate us to want to do and be more. If your community does not do those things for you, stop giving your time to it. Time is the only compensation that matters in the grand scheme of mortality. Where and with whom we spend our time will be our biggest regret or greatest accomplishment. Pick only the best communities, villages, and connections and then show up for them. Give them your precious time. Time is too minimal to casually give and too precious to waste.
Facilitate love, growth, and hope within your village
It’s true that the construction of a village almost always starts with one knock or one genuine conversation and then it compounds and strengthens, but it never stops there. We show up for each other, and not just when catastrophe strikes or trials happen. Consistently being there is how we emulate love. We show up when heartache in any form shows it’s face, when fatigue is apparent, or just when we get a pang in our hearts that someone needs a reminder that they are loved. Amidst trials, we dare to hope and encourage others to do the same. We make the village invaluable. We create a village that facilitates the divine essence of acceptance and patience in a sense that it opens its arms to us when we need it most but also when we don’t know we need it at all. When we take chances on others and seek genuine connection we encourage growth, and a growing village committed to these traits and actions is a place of love, hope, and refuge.
We All Need A Village
Villages are our fortresses but they are also ours to build. It is never too late to begin the construction, or to be immersed in good works and to genuinely seek opportunities to lift others. Most of all… we need to show up for our village. We need to give when there is a time for giving and receive when there is a time for receiving. We feed our village and our village feeds us. We need a village and our village needs us. Find your village, fortify your village, and love your village. We all need a village.