Tears stream down my precious niece’s faces, ages 7 and 10, as they wake up to the loss of their perfectly healthy mom. She never woke up on the morning of her 38th birthday due to an undiagnosed arrhythmia. And all I could think was, what in the world could possibly fill the void of such a special mother? Absolutely nothing. But I watched in awe as I saw a beautiful bridge form over the void through the strength, comfort, and courage of a village.
A village filled with friends, their friend’s parents, teachers, classmates, neighbors, who all took their eyes off their own lives and took the time to step in and surround these girls. Nothing in this life is more powerful and connecting than people who can hold and honor your pain.
Meals, carpools, notes, small tokens of thoughtfulness may seem trivial, pointless, or even a waste of time. But we all yearn to be seen, to belong, and most of all not to be left alone. To watch these things unfold during their immense grief proved without a shadow of a doubt that when people choose to come along side one another with sacrifice, love, and kindness, we all benefit and a beautiful bond—a sturdy bridge—forms and we can handle any load.
A village by definition means joint possession, liability, and enjoyment. These are the three pillars that we need to build a strong community around us and our family.
1. POSSESSION - Also means ownership and control. When you are flat on your back physically or emotionally, and someone comes along and takes charge. Pays the bills, vacuums the rug, does the laundry, feeds the dogs, cooks dinner, anything! A pillar of strength, relief and a bond is created that is infinite.
2. LIABILITY - Also means one that acts at a disadvantage. When we are in pain of any kind, we can easily become our own worst enemy, unaware of ourselves and our surroundings, unable to complete tasks, etc. That is when the gift of friends, teachers, neighbors who dare to care can redirect us and become a firm pillar to keeps us rooted in what is real and important.
3. ENJOYMENT - Also means something that gives keen satisfaction. When your eyes are nearly swollen shut from crying and you are completely exhausted, to have someone make you laugh all the way up from your belly, forget, and hope again is what I think the world means by showing us that “the sun is always shining above the clouds.” You can rise above, you can live a full and beautiful life no matter what. You are not alone. Your village is your pillar, your rainbow bridge to anywhere.
So join our family and shout out of the Swahili word for village “KIJIJI” as a playful reminder how important it is for us all to take the time to reach out to each other, classmates, neighbors, friends, and create a village using these three pillars and build a bridge that can hold each of us with all that life has to offer, the good and the bad.