In 1996, Hillary Clinton penned a book: It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us. While some may think a book written 20 years ago has little relevance today, I would like to offer a 2016 perspective from a Dad who had a child born in 1996.
First, my viewpoint is influenced by the fact that my wife and I had some real challenges conceiving Cara. After 7 years, various procedures and injections we had all but given up hope. She was and is a TRUE gift.
Sunday afternoon, I sat in a theater on the campus of Western Michigan University and reflected on the love and dedication of a village to bring the best out in a child. I had contacted one of her High School teachers to join me for the show. Sadly, at the last minute, due to illness she just couldn't make the trip. To my delight, prior to the curtain going up, Greg Jasperse, one of her college professors came into the theater. I invited him to take the empty seat next to me. We had a few minutes to catch up on politics and his work with Gold Company.
I don't want to bore you with accolades from the performance of Show Boat. You would be justified to view my observations as biased. (After all, my child is in the show.) But something happened at intermission. A former voice student at Western heard I was on campus. When I heard "Mr. Gross," I knew instantly who it was. I went to shake his hand but a handshake wasn't enough. Ryan gave me a huge hug followed by, "I'm learning some strange little things here that I know you would love." I quickly introduced Ryan to Greg by referencing one of Greg's compositions, one I thought Ryan would know. Ryan shared his admiration for the song. Ryan had no idea that the composer of a song he knows and likes happens to be a Professor of Jazz Studies at his university.
On the drive home, something came over me as I began to reflect on the events of the day. Had everything gone to plan, sitting to my left was one of Cara's current instructors, to my right would have been Cara and Ryan's high school drama teacher and all of us would have been experiencing the work of the Village. This is when it became emotional. I began to think of all those villagers with whom Cindy and I have entrusted our greatest love. I realized I should have told Greg how much I value the knowledge, skill, musicianship and dedication he works to instill in our child. I want Shannon to know the lessons she taught Cara and Ryan go beyond the hours she spent on her own time, outside the classroom. I want Dr. Kness to know her instruction and encouragement continues to shape a voice longing to be heard. I want Dr. Gauthier to know the gentle spirit and the beauty she shares extends beyond a rehearsal or performance, it gets instilled in the performer. I want Cara's dance teachers to know she still moves gracefully and with beauty. I want Madame Bellanger to know every time Cara sings French, it honors her devotion to teaching.
I want Grandma to know Cara will always remember you made every recital, every concert, every show, even when you didn't feel up to it. I want Sherrie, Keri and Tim to know she stands in the spotlight because you bought that special dress or costume, loaned and gave money when it was needed and cheered louder than appropriate. I want my BeckRidge family to know, when you let her stand on our stage and sing her first solo, you opened a door that allowed her to see the future.
Every time a child succeeds, we see a village at work. Every time a child struggles, a village rises to help. Every time a child can see their future, a village holds lanterns lighting the way.
If raising a child ever feels like a solo or duet, take a look around. Standing beside you is a village wanting nothing more than to help your child find their passion and purpose. Sometimes living in a village is tough. However, there is no greater reward than watching your gift to the village mold and shape the next generation.
Go hug an educator today. Call and thank a relative who is always there for you. If nothing else, go light a torch and illuminate the path for someone in your village.
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