There’s an old African proverb, popularized in the West by Hillary Clinton: “it takes a village to raise a child.”
It takes a village to raise a child.
It’s a beautiful sentiment, really, this idea that community and connectedness is vitally important both to the healthy and happy development of our children and to the care and support of their parents.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve put that old proverb to the test, and found it to be true.
Here’s the story. It starts on June 20th, the day of the Calgary flood. That day, I didn’t even know it was going on.
To be sure, I knew that rains of biblical proportions were falling, and that the rivers in my city were already high. But all the rest of it? Well, I didn’t know about any of it, despite frantic text messages and voicemails from my family back in Toronto. I didn’t know, because I had spent the afternoon and evening in the Alberta Children’s Hospital with one of my daughters. And my iPhone battery was dead (not that you can even get a signal in most of the hospital premises). So I was pretty isolated.
But my point isn’t that I didn’t know about the Southern Alberta floods and the state of local emergency and the school closures until hours after it had all begun. My point is that in the midst of all this crisis on a large scale, I was experiencing a crisis on a personal scale. In the face of all the devastation – whole homes and neighbourhoods and even lives lost – I felt selfish (in my dry home) reaching out to my friends to express my personal worry, vent about my own stress, complain about my own lack of sleep.
But I did reach out anyway, with disclaimers: “I feel bad even mentioning it during the flood crisis, but…”
And I was blown away by the response. My family rallied behind me with regular phone calls and text messages, and offers to hop on a plane and come to Calgary to help out. My friends took care of my other daughter while I was at the hospital and brought me meals and comfort food (salt & vinegar chips) and Starbucks. Long-distance friends called to check in and offered a shoulder for me to cry on when I needed it most.
Community and connectedness is vitally important both to the healthy and happy development of our children and to the care and support of their parents.
And then there was the outpouring of generosity from my Facebook friends. No, I didn’t share the fact I was in hospital with a sick child on my public status, but I’m a member of a few groups on Facebook, one of which has become a very tight-knit group of women, most of us living in (or having lived in) Calgary, and I shared it there. And in the midst of their own crises (either being evacuated or hosting evacuees or covering the flooding for media or helping with relief efforts) these women were there for me. Every single one of them offered messages of support and encouragement. Many offered to help me find items needed to make my daughter’s hospital stay more comfortable. Others offered to entertain and treat my younger daughter to movies, or roller-skating or trips to the amusement park. Others brought me treats: delicious homemade mini cupcakes to help celebrate my daughter’s birthday (delivered by a muddy friend on her way home from flood clean-up), a package full of favourite ‘love, want, need’ items, goodie bags full of perfect treats for mom and both girls, heartfelt messages of solidarity and support. Above all, just knowing that I was cared about. THAT MUCH. And by people who I may never have met? It was a remarkable feeling.
And all of you together have helped sustain me through this personal crisis. You are, indeed, my village.
So to everyone who offered me support, be it family, friends, or housewives…you all know who you are. And I want you all to know how much you are appreciated. You are my village, and I couldn’t do it without you. Thank you.