It Takes a Village
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
IT TAKES A VILLAGE. “It takes a village to raise a child” is an old African proverb that has been used by others in more recent times to emphasize how a child has the best chance to fulfill his/her potential when the entire community around the child gets involved. Every parent knows the truth of this saying because we all know how difficult it to raise a child today. There are so many influences fighting for the attention of our children, especially with the rise of 24/7 technology. How can parents hope to instill our core values in our children, values they will carry throughout their adulthood? How can we resist messages that bombard our children, messages that are often totally contrary to our Orthodox Christian faith?
Well, if we understand that “it takes a village,” we will seek out a community of people that can play an integral part in the lives of our children. We all need one another; we need help in influencing, mentoring, and inspiring our youth.
The Bible says, “Don’t be fooled, bad company ruins good morals.” We’ve all heard the saying “show me your five closest friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” We are all influenced by those closest to us. But if our youth are only or mainly influenced by their friends, then they will miss out on the wisdom of those outside their peer group. And of course, a very special type of wisdom can only come with people who have experienced life, with the aged. Why do their closest friends need to be their age mates?
Today, we honor and lift up two special groups of people, who we hope play a central role in the lives of our youth. To all the grandparents and godparents in our Church today, we want to highlight the special influence and important role you can and should play in the lives of all your godchildren and grandchildren. You are an important part in the village that nourishes, blesses and inspires our young people.
The Church understands the necessity for parents to have help in teaching and raising their children and leading them on the straight and narrow path towards the kingdom of heaven. And that is why God gives our young people these two special sets of people. From birth, most children have grandparents who lavish their love and attention on their grandchildren. Of course many spoil their grandchildren, but more than spoiling them, grandparents need to offer their wisdom and guidance. Then, from the moment of our baptism, entrance into the Church and our union with God, we receive another special set of parents - our godparents! They are chosen to assist parents in the spiritual upbringing of the children. Both grandparents and godparents can play an essential role in the village that raises a child!
The Book of Proverbs wisely teaches, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from the path.” (Prov 22:6) As I noted, in today’s post-modern, secular society, parents need all the help they can get in overcoming the countless temptations and snares awaiting our children. If we want to raise our children according to our Orthodox Christian traditions and values, we face a daunting task to combat the countless anti-Christian influences found in television, movies, pop-music, and throughout the internet, not to say anything about the many unchristian and anti-Christian role models too many celebrities and sports heroes represent.
St. Theofan the Recluse once noted, “Of all holy works, the education of children is the most holy.” And we can add “most difficult!” Of course, whenever we struggle for something sacred, the devil does not remain inactive. As Scriptures says, the devil is like a “prowling lion ready to devour” our young people.
Thus, here lies the grave responsibility of the village, starting of course with the parents, but including the grandparents and the godparents, along with others. We need the village to accept and fulfill this sacred task to help parents raise and train their children in a Christ-centered, loving manner. In fact, the Church sees this relationship of Godparents and Godchildren as such a holy union, that from the day of one’s baptism, Godparents are no longer considered simply good friends of the family, but actually become an intimate part of the baptized child’s immediate family. And what can we say about grandparents – just ask any one of them and they’ll tell you how much they love their grandchildren, and tell you about the unique bond they have with their grandchildren.
Since the spiritual battle we face appears so daunting, I want to remind all the Godparents and grandparents, as well as all the uncles, aunts, and friends to assist our parents who are struggling to raise our children with a Christ-centered foundation. And let me add here that our Church Family also has an essential role to play in the village. We all have watched one another’s children grow up. Let us constantly reach out to one another’s kids, and strive to become mentors and examples in the lives of our youth.
The Church Fathers remind us that “no one can be saved alone.” Our journey towards God and into His heavenly Kingdom is a journey in community, as a village, as we struggle to encourage, nourish, comfort, strengthen and help one another draw closer to God. Our parents often are the ones who plant the seeds of belief and give birth to a living faith within our youth. There are many others throughout our lives, however, who enter in at special moments and act as our mentors and spiritual coaches, teaching us to prepare for life and guiding us to overcome the many obstacles and failures that confront us. Still others serve as our trainers, caring for our injuries and bringing us back to health, while others act as our companions and co-athletes, pushing us on to new heights. For some mentors, our greatest impact may only be during a particular time in one’s life. Yet, grandparents and godparents are there throughout their lives.
Today, we want to say THANK YOU to all the grandparents and godparents. Thank you for being a central part in the village. May we all continue to live up to our sacred calling and help our grandchildren and godchildren to fulfill the special potential God has given each one of them, and journey further into the kingdom of heaven.
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