My village is not the typical village I dreamt it would be when I was younger … but maybe there’s no such thing as typical?
Do you ever wonder, who will be there for you if you are struggling, if you get really sick, have a life crisis, or someday if you are dying? Who will take care of you? This is something I think about, because my life doesn’t always look like the typical life that others lead. My “nuclear family” and my larger “village” or “tribe” is a little different than the average family of husband, wife, children, dog, minivan, house etc., (though a dog is something I want to add to my village really soon!)
These questions also translate into another kind of wondering: who is at the centre of the concentric circles of your life, and who/what adds meaning to your life?
There was a time when I didn’t feel like I had the ‘right’ kind of life or village–but lately I’ve been realizing I do have a beautiful village, it’s just looks a bit different from the next person’s village and the one after that. Maybe at the core, what matters is knowing you’ve got your people with you in life, plain and simple, whatever that looks like.
A village can be described in many ways. First, most simply, traditionally, and geographically, as gatherings or clusters of houses and buildings, smaller than a rural town. It might also be a smaller district in your city, such as the many neighbourhoods of Toronto. Taking on a more personal and relational definition, your village (or tribe) can be defined by relationships rather than proximity of physical dwellings. Although sometimes the two go hand in hand. Village might take on the image of groups of people supporting each other and “doing life” together, sometimes also referred to as a tribe, which could be close friendships, family members, or people sharing the same language, culture, history, ethnicity, traditional practices, and more.
Often these days, the term village or tribe is used to describe a group of people with whom we share a common interest in hobbies and values, and/or a common stage of life or personal circumstances or challenge or loss. For example, a parent or someone facing a major illness might say they couldn’t have gotten through without the support of their village. Just like a person facing poverty who overcomes addiction or someone with severe mental illness will likely say the same: that inclusion and connection in their community or “village” were at the core of surviving the worst of times. Social bonds can be the best currency we have in building wellness for ourselves.
A village is often also known as a community, or when building intentional interdependent relationships AND living in very close proximity, ie. the same street or house or apartment building, it might be known as intentional community living. Intentional communities come in many models, including co-housing, ecovillages, cooperative housing, spiritual communities, and more (see future posts for more details). According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, life together in a form of community can be described as simply as “a day with others,” but with all the complexities of a faith-driven life, where a shared theology (in his case he references Christianity) could be at the core (from his book Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community).
My village is not the typical village I dreamed it would be when I was younger. Not that I really thought of it in village terms back then, but I did imagine my life would include my husband, my children, my family, and my children’s friends and their parents, and so on. Instead, I live within what I have recently come to term my wonderful and unexpected-yet-fulfilling village. I currently live out a wonderful life of singlehood, without a husband and children. It wasn’t the original dream, but it’s slowly shaping into a pretty incredible dream. My village or close community consists of many social components including my church which is very involved in loving those who are facing vulnerable situations and/or find themselves excluded in the community/city; the community house where I live as a housemate and friend/support and sister to those facing poverty, mental health issues and loneliness (who are family to me), my own blood family, my close friends, my mom-friends (whose families and children carry me in love), the sweet kids in my village.
Village looks different for everyone, depending on your relationships, life circumstances, personal struggles, and more. I hope to come back with more thoughts on how social connections shape our lives, what intentional community means, some models of how this can be lived out, and some of my own dear-to-my-heart experiences.
In the meantime, I would love to hear from you what your village, community, tribe, family (whatever term you want to use) looks like and what it means to you?