One of the most common laments of our age is that our villages are disappearing. I’m sure you’re familiar with the old proverb that begins with, “It takes a village…”. And boy, does it.
We notice its dearth when we are in need of a listening ear, a cup of sugar, or someone to watch the kids while we go to a doctor’s appointment. We feel ill-equipped to do life alone. Rearing children, bearing emotional burdens, sharing joys… it’s all richer, more manageable, when done alongside others. We need one another to offer our unique gifts and differing viewpoints. So much of what I, myself, lack is made up for in the next person.
Frequently we talk about our longing for a village… but how often do we discuss what it takes to find, have, and keep one?
In our present day and age, villages don’t naturally fall into our laps. It takes intentionality, and sometimes even a bit of discomfort.
This conversation is a timely one for me. The past few months have brought a steady stream of company for our family; our guest room has been full of people who love us, play with our children, evoke laughter, and are willing to enter into our lives in an purposeful way. Family and friends, new and old, have sat around our table over dinner and drinks while we share our lives and speak freely.
I know that the above picture sounds downright utopian. We are lucky enough to have people in our lives who want to spend time with us in our element; who hire sitters or take off of work or travel to do so. These instances fill up my soul in a profound and meaningful way. It’s something we plan for, look forward to, and cherish.
And while these visits are a long-term benefit in my life, bringing true enrichment and depth, in the short-term, the intense, intimate interaction can feel heavy and draining to an introvert such as myself. As someone who loves people but craves time alone to recharge, I find myself living within the tension of my desire to exude hospitality and my need to internally process what’s gone on around me. Sometimes, in the midst of a long weekend full of houseguests, or coming off of back-to-back company, I feel depleted.
I want to boldly confess something important that I’m learning as I grow: that what is more important than how I feel is being an active part of a community. I will continue to extend invitations to fill our guest room and table with those in our growing village. Although I may still have to fight the deeply ingrained cultural mindset that says if I’m uncomfortable then I won’t do it, I will do so because of the long-term benefits, for both my family unit and those who are a part of our lives. I have written numerous times about the importance of self-care; I won’t downplay its importance in this scenario, but rather, encourage myself to continue learning how to best refill my cup. In that, I am more capable of nourishing my (and my family’s) need for genuine relationships, and better equipped to meet the needs of others within my circle of influence. And that’s something I find worthwhile.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.