TERESA STARCHER'S "PETTY PONDERING" - Village Visage, "Holding Neighbors In High Regard"

(05/19/2008)

By Teresa Starcher

dagwood2us@yahoo.com

Hillary Clinton, once wrote a book entitled “It Takes a Village”. While I doubt, with her financial status, that she knows much about living in a real village.

That is, as to what I envision one to be. Although I have not read the book, I have read some quotes from it. Basically, it seems to deal with child rearing in today’s world and the impact on a child by the interaction of the people within his or her community.

The deliberation of this theme must have been with Mrs. Clinton for many years, because over two decades before her book was first published in ’95, she reflected these sentiments.

“We are, all of us, exploring a world none of us understands… searching for a more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating mode of living…for the integrity, the courage to be whole, living in relation to one another in the full poetry of existence. The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences…”

Commencement Speech, Wellesley 1969

Although these lines seem utopian in nature, and probably meant to address racial tensions during that time; I cannot help but to feel wistful for the growing years of my childhood. The conception drawn by her words were at one time of my life, a reality. When our community flowed in unison on empathy with the shared concerns of the neighbors, in short, we were in the same boat.

Our farms, although very small produced great yield by the sweat of our fathers and the food preservation skills of our mothers. My mother worked in the fields also, as did most, and she, like many others; took great pride in their milk cows to, not only supply milk for her children, but the excess was used to aid in putting the desired weight on the hogs as well. For most things on a farm have an interdependent relation to another.

To me, this interdependence was key as to what would constitute as being a true village. When the farmer had need of the blacksmith, whom inversely required the iron and coal vendors, whereof was in want of the miller who reciprocally depended on the farmers and so it went.

I am too young to remember when this area had several blacksmiths and gristmills fully operating, but I did know the older generation who experienced this bygone time and they brought the essence of this fore-time to my generation.

Their high moral standing played a part in their work ethic for even as it seemed that they were too old to do so they continued, through the progress of time, to hold true and steadfast to the land.

They also helped and supported each other whenever they could. As is always the case, the weather held sway as to what and when jobs were done. Hence neighbors held so much in common that it fostered a fellow feeling of respect, with trust its by product.

In a quote from Mrs. Clinton’s book, she writes, “Home is a child’s first and most important classroom” (It Takes a Village).

As I look back again, I recall that my parents held each one of their neighbors, and also those that they knew from nearby townships, in very high regard.

If a character flaw was noted it was accorded a quite smile and acceptance as simply part of that person, with a hope within that others would be as accepting of your own. My father, highly touted this concept so that our neighbors were true friends and therefore like an extended family, which literally some were.

This perspective was key to making me and other children feel secure in their presence; to develop relationships and gain values from the influence of kindly neighbors, who were concerned with our well-being.

Then of course, discipline from our parents could swiftly remind us of our duteous conduct to family and community. Also should we be reprimanded at school , we were more so at home. Therefore, I find another thought from Clinton’s book apt advice.

“…We parents have to back up school authority and quit making excuses for our kids when they misbehave”. Often I think about the children of this and the coming generation and I sorrowfully regret that they will never know these people nor the era that they embodied. They could not but help to make one a better person just for knowing them.

As the years went by, the patriarchs and matrons went to their reward and second generation had long sense left the small homesteads for a better life. The land then fell to good stewards or into ruin. All changed. All seemed lost.

Yet, recently I joyfully caught a gleaning of village character that warmed my heart. This past Christmas season, we took the children to the local community building to a party.

The women of the community had really outdone themselves, for the tables groaned, laden with traditional holiday fare .The many new and a few old faces; I drank them in. We enjoyed the fellowship as well as the sumptuous meal. Santa was there to exchange secret longings with the children, and distribute free gifts to each and every child.

As the children happily mixed and mingled among us; I noted that many of the adults waited on and was attentive to each child they came across.

I thought how wonderful this all was to help nourish a sense of community awareness and appreciation in the children. In addition, as it came to the close of the evening; when friends, neighbors and relatives shouted holiday greetings to one another along with their goodbyes, then I also felt a strong sense of community pride and belonging.

In introspection, I will always long for the many qualities and aspects found in yesteryear. Yet, for our children, they will have only what we can convey in the giving of ourselves- today. Anyway, Mrs. Clinton has also been quoted as saying,” Life is too short to dwell on what might have been”.

To read more Petty Ponderings see   Columns


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