Friday, October 20, 2006

"It takes a village"

I wrote this a while back about one of 'my' Yugoslav families. Been thinking about them a lot lately, and didn't think any of you would mind me sharing this here...It still resonates as we look at pictures of our troops cuddling/playing/laughing/protecting children in all the sandbox areas they are in right now. It really IS a small world!!

"It's a small world after all..."

"It takes a village to raise a child" is the title of a much-ballyhooed book by Hillary Clinton. Think what you will about her performance in the White House - and we won't even GO to Bill's performance! - but this last week I was reminded how small is this village we all live in, and how much of an impact we can each make, when it comes to the care and well-being of that most precious resource, our children.

In my 'day job' I am lucky enough to work with little people as they struggle to grasp the most basic academic lessons in life. Every day I hug and nurture and soothe, and yes, every day these children respond. It is the most rewarding job, as I touch these little people, in the moment. But this last week I have been reminded just how much of an impact a kind word, a smile, a hug has on each of my children. (Yes, as I told one child weeks ago, "when you're at school, you're all MY children!")

At the end of school last year (summer 1997), two little Yugoslavian girls I had grown to love returned to Belgrade with their mum and dad. Mum and dad felt it was then safe for them to return to their homeland. I was very sad to see big sister (our student) and her younger sister leave us, but recognized the parents' need to take their family home.

As the new school year began I missed the family's smiling faces. I desperately missed little one's hugs. When she visited her big sister's school, her face would break into a huge grin as she spotted me; she'd fling herself at me and wrap her legs around my waist. I missed grandma's sweet smile and holding her hands as we hugged each other, unable to speak each other's languages but sharing our joy at seeing each other. the year progressed other children needed my attention and I heard nothing from Yugoslavia. At Christmas I was thrilled to receive a Christmas card c/o the school and promptly wrote back to 'my girls'. Then... nothing for months.

Time flew by, as I 'high five-d' that little Phillipino boy, and grinned and poked my tongue out at this little Romanian love. As I hugged and stroked (yes, very un-p.c. these days but...!) these children entrusted to me, I often thought of the girls and their loving family in Belgrade, and I worried. And then, as we all know, the bombing started. Panic set in, as I'd lie awake many a night trying to picture grandma in her apartment, the home she'd invited me to 'for a cup of tea'. I talked to others in my community who arrived from Yugoslavia, trying to get news. Silence. More nightmares as I thought of gentle mum and dad trying to explain to the terrified girls why Canada would be bombing them. Every day I'd think of them as I hugged my Canadian children.

In the last week of school I was heading for the playground; turning my attention away from a child for a moment I looked down the hall. I have a vivid imagination and thought my sleep deprived brain was playing tricks on me. There, right there next to the office were grandma, mum and my two girls. I had to stare. Surely this can't be true. Yes... it really was them. Grandma and I hugged - she still doesn't speak English and I still don't speak Yugoslavian! - and the girls smiled broadly as I hugged mum. The girls are grown - so big! - so we hugged and kept our feet on the ground, but the joy! It was the most wonderful joy. I was given the most humungous bunch of flowers "you didn't have to do this. Just seeing you is more than enough."

We all went to the playground and as mum and I talked - she speaks fabulous English - I felt the wisdom of a woman who has walked the dark, night-time streets of our global village. She told me of their hurried exodus from Belgrade just ahead of the bombs, and as she tells me what she told the girls so as not to terrify them, or have them think badly of Canada, 'their other home', I marvelled. I marvelled as we all touched each other, in the flesh, and I marvelled at how we had touched each other's spirits. The girls went off to play with their old friends and we three women stood in silent communion. And, in those precious moments I remembered why I work with children. Before Hillary Clinton ever coined the phrase "it takes a village", I knew in my soul that we are ALL responsible for the little children. They may live in Yugoslavia; they may live in Africa; they may be born down the street from us. But they belong to us all. As village elders we have a duty to cherish the children. It's not enough to wait for the United Nations, multi-layered governments, non-governmental organisations, social agencies or 'the other guys' to do the job. Every member of the village needs to get involved, if our children are to grow up safe, nurtured and cherished. Let's do it, one street, one neighbourhood at a time.


Georgia Blogger