I remember when Hillary Clinton’s book It Takes a Village came out. Hillary-haters immediately flew in for the kill, ripping the book to shreds with their talons and teeth. I, on the other hand, read the book. I found I agreed with most of it, remembering that the “village” that raised me was my church, Feasterville Baptist (FBC).
I thought of FBC again when I read Nancy Gibbs’ essay in TIME magazine about how writer Bruce Feiler had set up a Council of Dads for his kids when he found out he was ill. He invited men to be a part of raising his daughters, teaching them the values he felt were important. Gibbs goes on to suggest that all kids (even those whose parents aren’t sick) need Councils of Dads and Moms in their lives if they’re going to learn all we desire them to.
A few weeks ago I sent letters to a couple of people who were still on my mom’s Christmas list and who were far enough away not to hear of her passing. I got letters back from them, reminiscing about the old days. Mrs. Blocker reminded me of the time we magic-markered my brother Bob’s belly with a smiley face while he was sleeping. I remember her as one of the adults who taught me what it meant to have fun (along with Judy Pierce). Mrs. McCollum taught what it meant to faithfully serve the church, even when maybe you didn’t feel like it. A few months ago, at another funeral, I saw Mrs. Colby and Mrs. Taylor, two of the adults who modeled gracious open-door hospitality. So many adults at that church taught us to serve Jesus joyfully, to value friendship and fellowship, and to laugh.
They also kept me on the straight and narrow. Pastor Keller taught me with his disappointment and admonition when he caught us talking with the boys on the church steps in the middle of the night when we were supposed to be sleeping over in Janet’s camper. If he told our parents, I never knew it, but I knew how he expected us to behave in the future. The counsel of my parents’ friends became a Council of Values for us.
I’ve carried the Council of Values forward without even realizing it. Les and I were part of such a council for Joy and her sister Debbie long before they ever became a part of our family. Which means we can choose to be a part of a child’s council without being asked to do so. We begin to invest in their lives, listen to them, and live our lives and values before them. We explain why we choose to do what we do, and we have fun with it.
Now we are part of Joy’s Council of Values for Ashlee. And we are busy recruiting other adults who will be a part of her life. There’s Leah the hugger; Ke and Lucy, the world expanders and playmates; Mel, Jeff, Kalihan and Teisha, and Kelly, Randy and Emily, the break (for us) and fun (for Ashlee) givers. There’s pastors and pastors’ wives who treated her as the mascot at our denominational conference and continue to pray for her (and us), and those who will help her learn to serve others through AngelFood, or like Mary by having her hand out bulletins and take the offering.
Do you have a Council of Values for your own kids? Tell me who’s in it, and why. What do you want them to teach your kids? Is your council something that has simply evolved (like my childhood church) or have you actively sought specific people to be involved in the lives of your children?
And whose life are you investing in? Are there children or teens in your neighborhood or house of worship who you can come alongside and help them learn lessons that will serve them well throughout life? It’s certainly a great way to pass on what’s important to you. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is always looking for willing adults to make a difference in the life of a child and, so, in the future. Be part of the village, even if you never liked Hillary.