Recently I read a Huffington Post article entitled, “I Miss the Village”, where the author, Bunmi Laditan, writes that she “misses the village of mothers I’ve never had”. She expresses a yearning for the days when women had opportunities to do life together, helping by simply walking alongside one another. A time where women would “be washing side by side” or meeting at the well to gather water, and as they bent to their tasks children of all ages would be playing around them.
Of course these moments were never just about washing clothes in the river or drawing water from the well. These daily intersections provided opportunities for women to share their worries, joys, and life stories. Advice and support was offered, allowing cross-generational relationships to be woven, helping women navigate their lives.
Laditan concludes her article by saying, “I miss that villages of mothers that I’ve never had. The one we traded for homes that despite being a stone’s throw, feel miles apart from each other. The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices, and afternoons alone on the floor playing one-on-one with our little ones.”
Then, I providentially began to experience the power of these generational relationships. It has been in my on-going participation in two different women’s groups that I have begun to sense the promise of these friendships. One of the groups is a women’s Bible study group comprised of 25 women whose ages range from 20 to 60 years. The other group is a mentoring group composed of myself, 2 other mentors, and 9 young women in their 20’s.
I am not sure I can pinpoint any one specific episode that has caused me to more deeply appreciate the cross-generational aspect of these richly diverse groups. But over the last weeks, I have been sensing a shift, a deepening, as we move into our third year together. Spending time together has allowed us to collectively darn a history and establish connections across generations. We are carving out time where our burdens can be shared, and support and comfort offered. Wisdom is being imparted, helping to equip and transform. Exchanges where hearts can be lovingly nurtured and praise items are collectively, and joyously, celebrated. And where within in the context of companionship, first with God, and then with each other, spiritual growth is fostered.
It seems we are increasingly feeling what Laditan addresses, “We’d laugh – too much and never enough at the same time”, “We’d cry – never alone, but shoulder to shoulder” and “The days would be full of conversation as we expertly flexed a muscle that has since gone weak; the art of listening. Quiet empathy in lieu of passive judgment, and when called for, gentle sincere advice. In our village, our members are our estate and we build them up.”
And then, providentially a fourth occurrence drawing attention to this yearning for a “village” was a recent conversation I had with a young father at church. Knowing that I have three grown sons, he asked me what advice I would give him as he and his wife are in the midst of raising their three pre-school aged sons. He shared that he longs for wisdom from those who have walked before him. Because he has such a deep desire to learn how to best parent his boys, every time the opportunity avails itself, he asks experienced parents for their “best parenting advice”.
After we talked, I pondered these divine intersections, providential moments of cross-generational conversations and connections. It occurred to me that these groups and these experiences have become my “village”.
Over time, and stretched across the generations, sacred relationships can be forged. Divine intersections, with fruitful outcomes, are opportunities for diverse generations to both contribute, and to receive. Sacred exchanges that build “villages”, where we become the loving and grace-filled estate.