The saying, "it takes a village," became popular a few years ago, attributed to African cultures reflecting their belief that a child has most potential to become a healthy adult when an entire community takes part in raising.
Jane Cowen-Fletcher wrote a children's book called It Takes a Village in 1994, about a young girl caring for her younger brother. The children realize the whole village is watching them.
Former First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1996, presented her vision for the children of America in a book It Takes A Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us. She focused on the influences that connect children outside the family as well as advocating for a society that contributes positively to a child's upbringing.
The United Methodist Church recognizes the value of a Christian community in the service of infant baptism. The pastor asks the parent or parents of the child a few questions, then addresses the congregation with these words:
"Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and include this person/these persons now before you in your care?"
The congregation replies, "With God's help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround (baby's name) with a community of love and forgiveness, that he/she may grow in his/her trust of God, and be found faithful in service to others. We will pray for him/her that he/she may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life."
The congregation at the time of a child's baptism takes responsibility for surrounding the child, nurturing the child in faith. The parents are reassured they are not alone raising their child - the village is with them.
Although the term "it takes a village" usually refers to raising a child, I've noted several examples where adults in difficult circumstances are experiencing the love and care of a village.
For example, I am friends with a family whose husband had a reoccurrence of melanoma in the spring, and was initially only given a few months to live. Immediately meals were arranged for several weeks. Offers of childcare appeared. One couple took care of the family's pets, enabling a long-awaited vacation to become a reality. People volunteered to drive the husband to work. The village has responded to help this family navigate these rough waters in a variety of loving and caring ways.
Another friend, whose daughter (also my friend) is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, described a bag of cards and notes she has received from family, and friends. My friend "carries her village" in a sack of paper, reading and re-reading the notes when she needs encouragement, always feeling surrounded by compassionate hearts who love her dearly.
We are always part of the village - sometimes we serve, sometimes we receive, and sometimes we rest - like the passage in the book of Ecclesiastes describing the cycle of life, "for everything there is a season."
Prayer: God, just be believing in you we are part of your village, community and kingdom. The word isn't important, but love and caring for each other is core to your commission we receive. Keep our eyes and hearts open so that whatever age or circumstance we encounter we become you in our response. Amen.