I think about this in bits and pieces…in times of pondering…in bumping up against a circumstance…and now, at the observation of a breakdown. Yesterday I spoke with a friend who is ending her marriage. I am heartbroken for her… for them, and I feel vulnerable for me…and for us. It causes me to realize the fragility of the human condition and the power of the enemy. Why is this happening more and more in our world? Why are relationships becoming so disposable? Why is our culture encouraging our separation from those we love in ways that tell us that it is ultimately all about our own journey? Such powerful emotions are surging through me as I grapple with these questions. I don’t presume to judge. I am not a researcher…I am a seeker…I am an observer…of other humans…. as I search for my answers.
I think that our culture has lost something huge in our global march toward personal success. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost our sense of where we came from…of who we came from. I disagree with Hilary Clinton….it doesn’t take a village to raise a child…it takes a family. A family, either blood or chosen, that loves you, is invested in your well being, wants the best for you, supports you, and holds you accountable. A good old fashioned family consisting of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, and uncles with all of their collective wisdom in tow…the extended family of yesteryear. That may sound too simple. But answers usually are simple, we tend make them complicated. Sociologically, it has been said that extended families enjoy certain advantages, such as a greater sense of security and belonging due to sharing a wider pool of members to serve as resources during a crisis, and more role models to help perpetuate desired behavior and cultural values.
The extended family is almost extinct and we are all paying the price. We are seeing the fallout in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities. I had the advantage of watching an extended family in action in my grandparents’ generation. My family reunions are some of the most treasured memories of my childhood. Being among these relatives gave me a palpable sense of belonging, and I felt safe. It was here that I observed that family wasn’t disposable…it was deemed essential. This generation took care of its own. Out of all of these grand siblings – nine on one side, fourteen on the other, no one divorced, no one went hungry, no one was homeless, no one was arrested, no one had addictions, no one went to daycare, and their elderly were cared for by loved ones in their golden years. Lucky coincidence? I don’t think so. It was the example that they learned from the generation ahead of them. It was also a time in our culture when people felt lucky to own one house….where they stayed put for their lifetime. They stayed with one job… their entire career. They took care of their possessions and repaired them when they broke instead of replacing them. My grandmother even saved and washed her tinfoil. People and things were valuable and cared for. This mindset bled into every facet of life as a protective salve.
But something happened, and the societal door swung open and our shelters and our jobs and our things became disposable lily pads as we hopped toward bigger and better and more in an effort to find the elusive happy butterfly. We discovered that if something wasn’t good enough, we would trade it away and get something better. So too, our families became disposable and our relationships followed.
I am afraid for us. We are trading generational gifts of wisdom, love, support, learning, the care of our children and our elderly for our own independence. We have traded a family for a village…a village who isn’t really invested in our well being, and doesn’t care very much about us. I stand among the guilty.
I wonder IF our culture once again encouraged us to cocoon ourselves with the continued wisdom and support of those who love us best, and used a family to raise a child…to mentor young couples, to guide new parents, to treasure our elderly….if it might have saved this couple or many others who are out there struggling in isolation. I wonder if it is possible to get there from here.
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” ~ Proverbs 15:22