This article was originally published by The Mennonite

We are the village

Lauren Eash Hershberger

Lauren Eash Hershberger is a full-time mother of two and works at Mennonite Mission Network as a production manager. She also enjoys being a youth sponsor at Silverwood Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, and participating in a close-knit small group. This blog originally appeared on Mission Network’s Beyond blog

For months I have been reading the news and feeling a deep pain in my chest, wondering how we got to this place of violence and distrust. How did we get to this place of us and them? The answers to these questions are complex and overwhelming, often leaving us feeling crippled, forgetting what power lies in our togetherness.

We continue to be a world of separated people, and I believe that this is the root of all that we despair.

We have been created to be in communion with each other. Not to live individually, but to depend on each other. To give and to glean from each other. As a marriage or a close friendship can demonstrate, what you lack, the other person can give, and you can give what the other person lacks. Our gifts and blessings are interwoven and work best when we are together. Our very health depends on it.

In a perfect world, no one should feel alone, unloved, in need. No child should grow up to feel unworthy or unmotivated. We should be there; we should be the ones who are loving and giving and molding. It takes a village to raise a child and also a village to support the adults.

We may feel like our voices are lost in the crowd and our hands are too small to make a difference, but it’s not true. Find the strength to reach out to your neighbors and get to know them. Make relationships with those you don’t understand. Be in a small group that learns how to depend on each other. Support a parent who is struggling with their children. We are tied like family – our connection to each other matters. The bond that we have been given cannot be broken.

My friend, Liz, works at World Relief in Seattle, constantly making connections with refugees who soon become part of her community. Recently, she posted on Facebook that she was looking for a wedding dress that could be borrowed by a refugee friend who was to be married in three weeks. Liz stated at the end of her post, “This is what community looks like! So awesome.” Within about four hours, she already had about eight responses of enthusiastic people willing to offer their dresses.

I recently reconnected with an old friend who has taken on going back to school while also working weekends so that she can provide for her adorable son. This daunting task is amplified by the fact that she is currently a single mother (and let’s face it, 2-year-olds are not always easy). She is doing exactly what she is supposed to be at this time – and my role? My role is to figure out how to be her community. I want to be part of her village – not only because I crave her friendship, but also because as humans we are connected. The well-being of my family is connected to her kid, her success, and her health. We need each other.

Looking wider than my small environment, who could be more inspiring than Mary Johnson, who eventually grew to love the young man who killed her son?

Let us not forget that when there is sorrow, all humans need each other all the more.

Do not be overwhelmed with the immensity of the events of the world, or alternatively the strength it takes to respond positively. We have been given the basic tools of compassion and love to be able to do these things and to start changing our situation from the ground up. We do this–not because it’s easy, but because we have to in order to move forward.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. We are the village.

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