I think that the first time I heard the phrase ‘it takes a village’ was when my kids were born – then in the context of ‘you’ll need help to raise this kid’, and ‘we’re in it with you’, and ‘count on us as your village’. It’s an affirming, happy, friendly, and accountable term.
Walking through my neighbourhood the other day, I was reflecting on the phrase, and wondering how many of us still subscribe to it…is it still relevant? Do I (or anybody) effectively manifest the values implicit in the phrase?
Continuing my walk, I stopped in front of a house that was clearly a beauty – in its day. Now, the shrubs and trees have taken over. There’s evidence of footsteps in the snow, but no recent snow removal. The windows look to be frosted from the inside. Uneven snow on the roof betrays a likely insulation/heat escape problem. The front eave trough looked like a frozen Niagara Falls – clearly it had been plugged for some time. Paint was faded. Had the ‘village’ let down the owner of this formerly beautiful little house?
I imagined a little old lady (or man) living a modest life in the family home of 50+ years – cozy, comfortable, but due to physical or budgetary limitations (or both) not especially proud of the exterior anymore.
What else was being neglected in that house? When was the last time the furnace filter had been changed? How wholesome is the plumbing system? Was the oven safe? Were the batteries in the smoke detectors fresh? Are there safety hazards in the home that might cause the owner to trip and fall?
Because seniors living alone are at an increased risk for all kinds of bad things – from loneliness to depression, to cognitive decline, to health and safety problems brought on by malnutrition, it behooves us to look out for one another.
I encourage you to introduce yourself to your elderly neighbours – something that’s hard to do in our cold Canadian winters – and ask if everything is OK. Maybe bring a box of cookies over. Start a conversation – even if it’s a short one.
…because we’re all part of the same village.