Last week at midnight, a first responder knocked on a woman's door. A neighbour wasn't doing well and their partner was out of town. The first responder explained that they would need to take the neighbour to the hospital, leaving two young children without care. The first responder asked if the woman would care for the children. There was no one else to ask - no family or friends to ask - just this woman. The neighbour and the woman had met briefly a few times. The woman knew the name of the eldest child but as far as specifics go, the name was all she knew. Without hesitation the woman said yes. She woke the young children and explained to the eldest that her mommy had gone to the doctor. She took them to her home, across the street, where she tucked them lovingly into cozy beds and stayed in the room with them all night. In the morning she made them breakfast, her and her husband played with the children as if they were their own grandchildren and when their mother was feeling better, they brought them home to her.
Last week this actually happened. Last week one neighbour's village grew and one woman's heart was filled to the brim with compassion and love for children who were nearly perfect strangers.
I know this woman, and I think she is amazing. I think her actions were amazing and to an extent, I think the thought of those action being amazing, is a little sad.
I recently re-read The Red Tent (you should seriously read this book - it captivates my whole being) and while I was reading this book I couldn't help but wonder what has happened. The Red Tent is set in the time of Jacob - in the Old Testament. In this time people lived in close quarters, the characters in this book in particular live in a tent-community. Of course the lens I see this with is that of a mother, because these days that's the lens I see most things through. So bear with me while I dream big through my motherly lens. Imagine having your first baby and having a handful of other women around, some who have had babies and some who haven't. Arms to help hold your new baby, hands to make you meals, voices to encourage you, experience to calm your worries, love to give back to you while you, knowingly or not, give yours away to the squishy little baby that you've just birthed. Can you see the difference this might make for a new mother? Or even for a seasoned mother?
Let's remove my mother-lens, can you see the difference this close knit community would have on any issue that arose? That bread that you couldn't get to rise, that friend that you were having a hard time getting along with, those funny moments that are best shared with someone - all of these things, it seems to me, would only be made better by having people so close.
I yearn for communities of closeness, for groups of humans that support each other and are there for each other. I know these communities exist but I also believe they are scarce. I hope for villages - villages for everyone. Villages that include more than blood relatives. Villages that recognize when one of their members needs some love, villages that give that love when it is needed. I am not sure why we ever strayed from such closeness. And just to clarify, no, I don't think we all need to go live in tent communities, but yes, I do think we need to open our doors and our lives to those around us. I truly believe that for us to prosper, to grow, to thrive and to succeed we need to do it together. I believe I am not the only one who feels this way and I think it is up to those of us who believe in villages to go out into our world and grow those villages.