“You’ve been here a LOOOOONNNNGGG time, Auntie…” – my 7 year old niece
And by “long time” she means that I’ve been in Orlando longer than 5 weeks. Of course, children her age have a skewed concept of time generally leading to hyperbolic expressions of events. Her tone was sweet and endearing as she described my return home from South Africa after a 3 month stay; this account was quickly met with bewilderment as to why I wasn’t allowed to stay as I had intended. She didn’t understand why my plans had changed. There was joy and sadness in her voice. Joy as we laughed and played together, but sadness because she knew that something “felt broken” in her auntie and there was seemingly no remedy in sight. I realized in that moment the depth of my village. It’s deep y’all. So, this blog is one of gratitude. Gratitude to my village.
“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African Proverb
I’ve been a “village person” all of my adult life. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the communal support system of nieces, nephews, cousins, and children in the various cities I’ve lived. I adore being a part of the village. The village isn’t just something we can benefit from as children. I’m learning, “As an adult, it takes a village to really live.” There are things that my friends provided that my family could not. There are thoughtful ways that my family supported me to remind me that I am more than what I do. I am family. The warmth of my niece’s presence and her hand-written notes with God at the center that say, “We love you God,” remind me not to take for granted her place in my village.
Without this village, I would have floundered upon my return from South Africa. Instead, I’ve been able to share my disappointment with my niece from the vantage point of a diamond, not defeat. I want my nieces and nephews to know that they can do hard things. They can try new things and succeed. They will also try new things and fail. But, they must try. Their village is strong.
In the last 6 months I’ve experienced very high highs and low lows. I’ve cried. I’ve lamented. I’ve laughed. I’ve dreamed. I finally dreamed. My village came through as I took deep breaths and acted with new courage imbued by faith. I was no longer a reservoir in the village, I had become a recipient. This transition has brought me face to face with my need for village people. I am thankful for the expanse of people in so many different places that I know are a part of my village and I theirs. Thank you all for your prayers, texts, meals, couch-surfing opportunities, and encouragement. Thank you for allowing me to do hard things; to live freely. This freedom has allowed me to throw off yet one more chain. The chain that links my identity to what I do has been thrown off! What does that look like for me? Well, I’m glad you’re interested!
When I envision myself really living in freedom, it takes me to a place where I am most myself; when I am teaching and in the presence of children. Therefore, I will no longer hesitate to make moves to make this a reality. I’m moving deeper into the village! I’ve accepted an offer to be a resident in a teacher residency program in Memphis while completing a Master’s in Urban Education. I’m excited to become a teacher after this year of residency. Teaching is hard work, but I can think of no other space where I will be more alive. I am certain there are beautiful exchanges I will have with the community of Memphis as we learn from one another. Memphis, here I come!
Some might describe my journey from engineering to education as steps backwards, but I would describe them as the most courageous and invigorating steps forward. When I stand in the classroom, I know I will not stand alone. I echo the words of Maya Angelou in saying, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” As my heart enlarges for the vulnerable and marginalized, I am compelled to do things I’ve never done before to see justice lived out in a way I’ve never seen.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9 (ESV)