As a young child, I was “little miss independence”. I loved getting up before the family woke in the mornings to make pancakes for breakfast. I enjoyed the quiet of having the kitchen to myself. I enjoyed how “grown up” it made me feel at 8 years of age to pull together a family breakfast everyone enjoyed.
As a teenager my independence was what caused my family the most pain. I remember fierce arguments had with my parents over the “unfairness” of curfews imposed and the “unreasonableness” of being forced to spend time with the family far too often for my liking.
Even as a young adult, married without children, I was focussed on the freedom to make choices for myself and my husband.
I don’t know if it is age and the wisdom that comes with that, or the fact that I now have children, who have a wonderful knack of shifting perspectives, but I would now describe myself as anything but fiercely independent. It is not that I have become any less capable, it is just that I have experienced what magic lies in community.
That has meant that I have had to learn to let go, and to allow others to be dependable for me and for my kids. It has meant that I have had to swallow my prideful independence and to ask for help. No easy feat for a control freak like me!
But in doing these things, that are so far out of my comfort zone – I have experienced the blessing of others stepping in to fill in what I lack.
At this time of year, when the year comes to a close and I look down the barrel of the last few intensive weeks of work, I am so grateful for the village that surrounds us. The wonderful teachers who don’t just work with our kids but who genuinely care for them, going the second, third and fourth miles for them, happily making adjustments so our kids get the best out of their learning. The aide that “gets” that inclusive education is as much about teaching peers how to include, as it is about teaching my special needs child. The dedicated art, dance and swimming teachers who patiently pass on their skill and celebrate the successes as if their own. The parents who know just when and how to help us if we are struggling with our daily walk to school. The speech therapist who adapts her lessons to suit my son’s ever-changing moods. The grandparents who, not missing a beat, say yes to school pick-ups and school holiday kid wrangling when work demands mean we need it the most. Our friends who send messages of encouragement or unexpectedly deliver cheese and wine!
It just makes me realise how we could not “do life” without the tribe that surrounds us.
We weren’t designed to operate alone. We are made for community. So others can be our hands and feet while we are the heart and ears to others. It is in this interweaving of support that we can find strength to carry us when things are tough, and where we gravitate to celebrate when we have wins!
So as Christmas fast approaches, and we come into a season where some feel like celebrating and others only feel the depth of their pain – let’s remember that we are a part of a bigger community. That we need to have eyes to see when others might be struggling, to have hands that reach out to support, or lips that speak kindness and grace. We also need to be willing to share our pain despite the festivities around and to ask others for help when we need it.
Whether you are celebrating the highs of the year, or dealing with heartache this season – I hope that you can reach beyond yourself to others, whether to bless or be blessed – for it is in doing this that we can know the peace that passes our own understanding and to help each other make it through to another year.
What do you most appreciate about the community that surrounds you?