I love this famous African proverb:
“It takes a village to raise a child”
meaning that everybody in a community sticks and works together and supports families in raising children and beyond.
Storm Emma and the “Beast from the East” have left the country and only a few stubborn snowman bottoms and shrinking igloos remind us of the chaos that was caused by the severe weather conditions of last week. As Ireland is not equipped for such extreme winter weather, many people had to rely on emergency services, local farmers, helpful neighbours and many other amazing people who went out of their way to help people in need in so many different ways. Yes, I know there were a few disappointing things that happened too, but the overall stories being reported were stories of community spirit, kindness and examples of people going above and beyond the ordinary to help others.
Tractors pulled cars out of ditches, neighbours shovelled pathways through the snow for the elderly lady next door, additional accommodation and warm food was provided for homeless people, there were eggs bartered for milk and bread and a particularly heart-warming story I read: nurses and carers brought in snow for a very sick little girl in hospital for her to build her first ever snowman and have a snowball fight with mum and dad. I am sure there is an endless list of similar stories and it’s wonderful to see how people pull together when the going gets tough. It does seem that difficult and even frightening situations often brings out the best in us humans.
I was listening to a radio program yesterday in the aftermath of “Emma and the Beast” (sounds kind of romantic), where a professor of psychology explained, that anxiety and depression rates decrease dramatically in times of adverse conditions, such as last week’s events; but also in war times, during and in the aftermath of natural disasters and similarly challenging occurrences. I was very surprised at first but as the professor went on to explain the reasons why this is the case, it became clear that this observation is very plausible: In challenging situations the focus is taken away from ourselves and instead directed to the needs of the people around us.
Neighbours and communities stick together, help each other, make us feel safe, and this sense of belonging, gratitude, being useful and connection is the most powerful natural antidepressant there is. Showing and receiving kindness is proven to be one of the main components of happiness: Psychologists, such as Martin Seligman, provide scientific proof, that doing an act of kindness “produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well- being of any exercise” that has been tested. In other words, both showing and receiving kindness makes us happy.
Our society has changed so much in the last few decades and lifestyle, family structures and communities are very different to how we, or even our parents grew up. Years ago it was normal for several generations to live under the same roof and family, neighbours and friends provided a safe and supportive network. Community was an extension of family and it was literally “the village” that raised a child. Modern phenomena such as emigration, immigration and changes in family structures have changed our communities, sometimes beyond recognition. I believe though, that even despite the big societal changes, we still need “the village” more than ever, even if it comes in different shapes and forms. The recent events show that “the village” is right here amongst us. It is our communal attitude, our willingness to share and help, our awareness of the needs of others and our desire to show kindness. In a world that has become increasingly more fast-paced, competitive and exclusive, it is reassuring to see, that there is still a lot of goodness, compassion and empathy left in humanity.
For more information on mindful parenting and education and a practical everyday approach that can be applied by anybody and tailored to your individual circumstances take a look at my new book “Roots and Wings – Childhood needs a revolution”, a handbook for parents and educators to promote positive change based on the principles of mindfulness.
Thanks so much for your interest and support! 😉 Alex
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