Most of the time the adage “It Takes a Village” is said regarding the effective raising of children. It references the extended family that steps up to help as needed no matter what the situation. But in reality that need for others, for community, that need for a village, extends to all of us at all stages of our lives. Sometimes we are the ones needing help. Sometimes we are the ones helping out. Give and take makes the village work.
I was reminded of this fact the other day by a little human interest news item here in my home town of Bakersfield, California. Well, it is actually not so little. Bakersfield is the ninth largest city in the state with a population of almost 350,000. When the larger Bakersfield-Delano area and the surrounding smaller cities are considered, the population grows to almost 840,000. What amazes me about the city—that I was reminded of by this news item—is that Bakersfield is really a small town at heart. There is a sense of community here.
The news story was nothing fancy. The opening line gives the basics: “Today 85-year-old Herbert Jackson got the keys to his newly refurbished home.” County Code regulations at the beginning of the month condemned the home he lived in since 1960, boarded it up as unsafe and put him on the streets. Mr. Jackson did not ask for help; it seems that he was going to try to figure out something on his own.
Fortunately, area volunteers decided to help without being asked because it was the right thing to do. They banded together to bring his home up to code. In fact, rather than just meeting the minimum standards, the volunteers rebuilt everything from the floor up and even brought in new appliances and furniture. Mr. Jackson lived with one of the volunteers for the weeks required for the hundreds of hours of work to be completed. When the house was again ready for him, he was given new keys and moved back home. Mr. Jackson simply said, “I don’t know what to say, I think I’m going to cry.” He accepted the generosity of strangers, as a member of the village.
Mr. Jackson was not the only one who received something valuable through this interaction. Those volunteers got something too, besides work. Since Mr. Jackson graciously accepted their help, the volunteers were able to demonstrate caring and compassion, share in communal experience, and participate in the give and take that holds the village together.
These sorts of actions happen all the time, thank goodness. When we buy Girl Scout cookies, donate to a charity, put items on the prayer chain at church, bring a casserole to a friend going through a hard time, celebrate someone’s graduation or retirement, we are part of the village. When we stop to help someone on the road who has car trouble, pull together after a natural disaster, or offer whatever we can to address a problem situation, we are part of the village. When we pay it forward or commit a random act of kindness, we are part of the village. It is humanity’s give and take. We give help when we can, so we can graciously take the help when we need it.
This is not the first time that this realization, this need for community, has come to mind. Not too long after graduating from high school I remember chatting with my mom about giving and accepting help. We basically concluded that if you do not let people help you, you are diminishing them and their love and concern for you. It is part of being a caring, responsive, helpful member of the village to accept help as well as give it.
Do you remember Dinah Shore? Singer in the 1940s who kept singing and hosted television shows in the 1970s? She even had a relationship with Burt Reynolds that was a bit of a scandal since he was 20 years younger than she was. Mom and I both liked Dinah Shore, and we also liked quotes. I think it was a Dinah Shore quote that started our conversation way back then: “Trouble is part of life—if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.” Mr. Jackson’s story brought this quote and my conversation with mom to mind.
Today, village or community is as important as ever for all of us. Neighbors. Family—near and far. Friends. Colleagues. Even blogging associates. Strangers. We help when we can, even if it is just a word of encouragement or understanding. We receive help when it’s needed. The cycle repeats over and over. As our world gets smaller and smaller, it seems even more important for us to reach out a hand to help when we can.
It feels good to be part of the village!
How helpful have you been lately? What help has come your way? How do you pay it forward?
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QUOTES ABOUT HELPING
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” Barack Obama
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Charles Dickens
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” John Holmes
“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” Gordon B. Hinckley
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Maya Angelou
“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” Steve Maraboli
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” John Bunyan
“We only have what we give.” Isabel Allende
“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I can’t change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.” Charles de Lint
“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same—with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.” Mother Teresa
“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.” Horace Mann
“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” Booker T. Washington
“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” Mandy Hale
“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water—it will make ripples throughout the entire pond.” Jessy & Bryan Matteo
“If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.” Warren Buffett
“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.” Leo Buscaglia
“There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.” Acts 20:35
“Do something for somebody every day for which you do not get paid.” Albert Schweitzer
“To do more for the world than the world does for you—that is success.” Henry Ford
“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.” Buddhist Saying
“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.” Bob Hope
“Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.” Danny Thomas
“There is no better way to thank God for your sight than by giving a helping hand to someone in the dark.” Helen Keller
“If you want to improve your world, then focus your attention on helping others.” John C. Maxwell