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Where Has the Village Gone?

by Sonya "Sonni" Nelson

Thirty-two years ago, when I was born, my parents knew very little about child-rearing. They relied on the gentle guidance and advice of a network of family and extended family members. The method of my upbringing was the epitome of t he African proverb "It takes a whole village to raise a child." In addition to my parent's dependence on the wisdom from the village, my sister and I have come to trust in those same sources as a more-than-adequate support system for our own lives. To the contrary, over the years the village has been reduced to but a thought of former days. In an effort to be independent and bring up a self-sufficient generation, we have severed all ties in our communities, allowed even the simplest of things to become quandary, given power to those incapable of mature behavior and depreciated the importance of our most valuable commodity - our children.

For example, it is no longer imperative for a family to forge relationships within the community. The 90s idea of becoming rooted in one place suggests an inability to progress or to move on to bigger and better things. Despite that, in my childhood being able to completely familiarize myself with everyone and everything in the neighborhood, served both as a stabilizing agent and comfort to me. I was aware of my surroundings and the expressed will of my parents. As a result, I felt free to wander the village without fear. On the flip side, it is the sense of consternation, easily preventable, that now holds many families captive in their own homes. Thus the great quest for self-sufficiency proves futile.

Independent living, in the same way, pushes aside practical reasoning. Just as business savvy is learned by practicing and subscribing to the wisdom of those who have gone before us, so are learned the lessons of life. After all, the wealth of my assorted and varied childhood was the abundant everyday wisdom I received. No matter what I needed to know, I could count on someone being able to point me in the right direction. Where else can the answers to life, love, spirituality, health, weather, business and history be found collectively? The Bible says "A wise man will hear, and will increase his learning; and a man of understanding shall attain from wise counsels . . . but fools despise wisdom and instruction." It is when we choose to reject this kind of wisdom that we suffer the injustices and consequences of ignorance.

Equally questionable, are the great strides that have been taken to blindly empower children, who are incapable of handling its pressures. We are not protecting our young; we are merely switching places. Minds, barely formed, are left to govern themselves, and to decide what is best for them. As a result, parents escape the responsibility of child-rearing to pursue their own self-indulgent and sybaritic living. However, the Bible tells us to train up a child in the way he should go, and according to my upbringing, the training of children involved the planting and cultivating of sound judgment and prudence.

We never could be found outside of the watchful eyes of our many co-parents. Anybody who qualified, be it older siblings, anybody's grandparent, aunts, uncles or Mrs. Jones down the street, gave direction, correction and praise whenever needed. If I was in error, and I often was, I was chastised by whomever was closest to me at the time. At the same time, if I excelled in an area, the praises were without end. The sounds of both the praises and corrections still ring out in the back in the back of my memories. Eventually though, it really was the abundance of them both, that has empowered me to become an adult not consumed by this life, but built up by it. What better gift to give to a fledgling, than the gift of flight.

Finally, it appears that quality of care and the nurturing of our young, once important to this nation, have taken a back seat to job loyalty. How long ago was it, when there was no question as to someone being at home when our children came home from school? More moms, dads and grandparents are working now, than ever before. Instead of making sure that our future generations grow up with moral surety, we entrust technological babysitters to handle the task.

Many homes are now equipped with alarms, pagers, computers, cordless phones, cable television, videotapes, video games and the like, which are all signs of national progress. Sometimes though, we allow technology and other things to inhibit good, old-fashioned relationships, and our ability to make conversation. Again, in the village, there were many talkers, but most importantly, there was an abundance of listeners. If my mom was working when I arrived home after a trying day at school, there was always someone on my walk home, who recognized that I needed to share what I was feeling. I knew the people in my neighborhood loved me, because they were always there for me. What then are we showing our children by giving them everything and telling them nothing? Where is the village?

On the whole, we have made long leaps toward the advancement of our society. Yet, we tend to close out the old in preparation for the new, bombard our minds with unnecessary information, too quickly relinquish our duties and pour more of ourselves into jobs and other indulgences than our own precious children. At some point, the line has to be drawn in the sand, as an indication of rededication to our families. The village concept must re-emerge as our source of strength and wisdom, if we are to produce resilient, prudent and successful generations to come. It takes a village!

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media