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If it takes a village, how do you get what it takes?

September 30th, 2004 · 2 Comments

A few days ago I wrote a piece exploring the lines and limits of peer pressure and parental responsibility in society. I received insightful comments and I especially wanted to respond in another post to the thoughtful ones left by Philippe Boucher (who now has a Voice of Bainbridge blog! yippee!) and Paul Beard about the village or community families need.

I would like to belong to a village where I could raise my family. I would welcome a community of all ages. But we no longer live in a society where we make that contract automatically with each other. I go one way and my neighbor might go another way, and sometimes those who live near us have nothing in common with us except that we both pay local property tax.

After thinking about the comments on that post, I have more thoughts.

1. If it takes a village, how can we find the right village for our families?

We don’t all share the same values or lifestyles. For example, I don’t think we would want to be community with parents who believe they should buy drugs for their children. So first a family has to determine what is important to it. And then a family has to seek other families with those same priorities. A difficult dilemma in this day of individualized living.

Enoch Choi on his del.icio.us page recently linked to a San Jose Mercury News article about a co-op school (Note: I was able to read the article earlier this week but now it is requiring registration.) The co-op school has survived the transitions of society (two parents working) because “People still need community.”. What Ted and I have been discovering is that community in our society is built around school. Schools bring easy bonds between families with similiar ages and interests. Spiritual groups also can bring people together. If you don’t attend a school or belong to a religious group, then community can be hard to find. We have been searching.

2. Even if you can find a village and invest in it, that doesn’t mean it will last as a community.

Ted and I as a family are recovering from a village that exploded. We thought we had found community. We made decisions and sacrifices in our lives so that we could participate deeply in this village. And now it is gone. I wonder whether we will find this kind of community again, one that seemed to be a good fit for our family. And I also wonder whether we will trust another community again.

I do believe in the village. I believe in it for reasons that range from spiritual to social. I believe it is a part of our innate nature to seek and need community. But it is hard to find those with similiar values and affinity strong enough to build a village together, to cement the mud and bricks into living buildings. And then there is no guarantee that the village won’t become a volcano.

Tags: family

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chris // Sep 30, 2004 at 12:17 pm

    I don’t believe that the “village” is achievable these days. Way back when, the village was built on very deep common bonds. The Irish Catholics lived in the same neighborhood, the Italian Catholics in a different neighborhood, the German Protestants somewhere else. These bonds were built on centuries of shared heritage and deeply held belief systems. Of course, that segregation causes problems too.

    A community built around the local public school just isn’t deep enough to be maintainable. It may be tight during a short term strife, a battle over zoning or something like that. But the community will act more like a project team. It will come together to address the common concern, and then disperse.

    I think we need to separate our living quarters from our community. The community will be found elsewhere – on the Web, in a coffee shop, in a volunteer community group, a homeschool support group, etc. Your home is just where you live. I’m happy if my neighbors don’t do anything to irritate me 🙂 I don’t expect them to be a part of my community.

  • 2 Patricia Taylor // Oct 1, 2004 at 7:47 am

    In the presence of recovering from the same thing Katherine and I have had since our return from Europe on Sunday, I am still not 100%, but reading this blog, Julie, is eye-opening. I grew up in the 50’s when the neighborhood was the community. Mostly women were at home, tending the homefires and the children, if they had them. When I returned from living in Europe for 16 years to the America I found in 1990, no one was home. Kids in daycare, both parents at work, often, big empty houses with no one in them, was the norm. No one was home cooking, and no one had any time to concentrate on what makes life worth living: a sense of caring, community, candid discussions about things both mundane, yet necessary, and esoteric. A profound sadness came over me when I saw that “Abortion” was the first listing in the yellow pages. It seemed to me that a whole life pattern had been aborted, along with the community of which you speak. I want to be a part of your community, and I am through your blog. Thank you, and I’d love to talk politics with you!