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I have to admit that I’m not particularly fond of the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  My disdain for this phrase is rooted in the fact that it is too often used as a rationalization for disengaged parenting, and by social engineers, who are trying to disguise their political agenda as some sort of genuine concern for the welfare of children.  Despite that, I can’t deny that there is also a measure of profound truth within this idiom.  As the father of four, I’ve always endeavored to maintain a daily presence in the lives of my children, and to have a separate relationship with each one of them.  For the most part, I’ve lived up to that expectation, but I’ve also discovered that there are instances, and seasons, when the kids need something, or someone, else.  At times, parents are too close to the situation to be objective; sometimes our fears cause us to push too hard, or maybe not hard enough.  Sometimes we’ve done all we know how to do, and we need to introduce a new element into the situation.  And sometimes our kids just need to hear it from someone else.

 

Years ago, our youngest daughter (Bekah) was struggling with reading, and we discovered that she had issues with her eyesight.   Upon addressing her vision problems, we knew that she needed help to get her reading level back up to where it belonged.  Unfortunately, by this time she was already highly frustrated with our persistent attempts to assist her, and things weren’t progressing well.  Thankfully, we found a wonderful lady (Mary) who was willing to work with her, and they very quickly formed a special bond.  Though it took a little time, her reading and writing steadily improved, and within a few years she had regained both her confidence and competence.  By then, their relationship had become so strong that she continued to go each week, and to work on other subjects as well.  Over time this amazing lady became much more than a tutor, and we have come to view her as a special part of our family.  In recent years, Bekah has blossomed as a reader, writer, and student.  She is currently a Freshman in High School, where she’s maintained her grades on the High Honor Roll (>3.5 GPA) all year, and where she was recently awarded a scholarship for winning an essay contest.  At this point, she reads and writes more than our other three kids combined.  But more than the improved academic performance, Mary’s loving investment in Bekah as a person has paid untold dividends.  Years from now, I’ve no doubt that Bekah will remember this beloved friend and teacher as one of the greatest influences in her life.

 

Similarly, there have been many other teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, neighbors… who’ve had a profound influence on our kids.  When our son Andrew was younger, he played basketball for a coach who absolutely destroyed his confidence.  After that experience, he decided that even though he loved the game, he just wasn’t cut out to play.  Despite our encouragement to give it another try, he wasn’t willing to do it; and for years he didn’t.  But as fate would have it, the new high school basketball coach became his homeroom teacher, and he saw potential in Andrew.  It was his encouragement that convinced our son to give it another try, and last Fall, he was a starter on the Freshman team.

 

More recently, after our son Patrick made the high school’s baseball team, he had the chance to be a part of the school’s Spring musical, “Guys & Dolls”.  Initially he felt sure his coaches would never allow him to miss practices, and maybe even games, to participate in the play.  But to his great surprise, the coach acknowledged what a great opportunity this was for Patrick, and allowed him to both stay on the team, and to try out for the musical.  At the first try out for the play, he only went for a small part, believing that was all he was qualified for.  But during the call back, his Choir teacher asked why he hadn’t tried out for one of the leads.  Patrick explained that since he sang bass in the choir, and that all of the leading parts were for tenors, he didn’t think he could do them.  His teacher then expressed her confidence in his voice, and challenged him to go for the more substantial role of “Nicely, Nicely Johnson.”  Inspired by her vote of confidence, Patrick took the challenge, and got the part.  After months of hard work, he and the rest of cast gave two spectacular performances this weekend.  It is an experience that he will remember for the rest of his life, and it could very well open up new avenues for him in the future.  Had his baseball coach been more worried about wins & loses than about Patrick, he might never have gotten the chance to tryout.  If his Choir teacher had not recognized his potential, and encouraged him to reach for it, Pat might never have discovered it.

 

As a parent, I am grateful for these, and the many other wonderful, people who reach out to our children.  As much as I want to be there for them, I must acknowledge that they often need things that I can’t necessarily give them.  My vote of confidence in Bekah’s ability to read, or Andrew’s ability to play basketball, or Patrick’s ability to sing/perform, wasn’t enough to get them over that mountain.  But thankfully, there were people who stepped into those areas and made the difference.  Just as people have reached out to our children, we’ve learned to reach out to other children within our community.  It is an opportunity to return the blessing that we’ve received.  Even though I still cringe when I say it, it really does take a village to raise a child, and to that end, I want to thank all of you who’ve been such a special part of our village.

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