Friday, June 08, 2007

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

I happen to think there's a great deal of truth in the African proverb that Hillary Clinton made a title of her book, "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child". The truth in that seems so obvious to me, in fact, that I wonder why the proverb is so often ridiculed by bimbo talk show hosts. Is that because Clinton used it as the title of her book, and they don't like Clinton?

Back when I hung out with people much younger than me, I discovered that kids will seek out adults to hang out with. Not every kid, of course, but many kids befriended me and I very strongly suspect they did so because I was an accessible adult they could interact with -- and thus they could put a toe or two into the adult world.

One night at the coffee shop where I'd met most of those kids, a man nearly my age, Tim, approached me and demanded (out of the blue), "I want to know what your secret is."


Tim didn't hesitate, but went on, almost angerly: "You're always surrounded by kids. They talk with you. I've been coming to this coffee shop over four months now, and I've only spoken to two kids. What's your secret? How do you get them to talk with you?"

"What are you trying to talk with them about?" I was beginning to suspect the man was a kook.

"Their souls. The Bible. Salvation. What are you telling them." He said "What are you telling them" as if he'd already made up his mind what I was telling them, and wished only to have it confirmed.

"They tell me whatever they want to tell me and I listen." I had by then decided Tim was indeed a kook, and so I made some excuse to leave him, which ended that bizarre conversation.

Some days later, however, I spoke with Tim more fully and got the story from him. It turned out he was a lay preacher at his church and his mission, for the last few months at least, was to "reach out to youth of the city with the gospel of Christ's salvation." Somehow, he had decided the coffee shop was the perfect place to do that. But he'd been completely unsuccessful. Only a couple of kids had listened to his salvation sales pitch, and neither one of them had bought it.

Plenty of kids, of course, are interested in religion, and I don't quite know why Tim was so unsuccessful in finding those who are.

Yet, most of the kids I knew weren't looking for an adult to sell them a religion. They were, if anything, looking for an adult to listen to them, to accept them, to help them discover who they were, and to encourage them to be true to themselves -- things more along those lines.

Good parents do that, of course. Yet, I think at some point in a kid's life, they need some adult other than their parents to do it too. They need to know the adult world accepts them. And perhaps that's one way in which it takes a village to raise a child.

1 comment:

Ashwin said...

You make a good point when you say that young people often need another adult. Already they assume their parents will talk to them, but parents are family and don't mean much in the grand scheme of the adult world. Good point.