It's a cliche by now that it takes a village to raise a child. Whether or not you agree, or think that is a true statement for every child, I can tell you it will take a village to raise our child. Or, at least, she will be raised not only by us but also by our village.
I'm thinking a lot about our village this week, and how blessed we are.
Maybe it's because baby J was baptized this past Sunday, and I was overwhelmed by the love, excitement, and joy with which our parish welcomed her.
Maybe it's because Andrew has had unexpected orientations and trainings come up this quarter and there has always been someone willing (eager even!) to help with childcare so I don't have to flake out on work. Thursday it was my sister-in-law, who gamely spent a morning caring for her own two kids (1 and 3 years of age) and baby J. In a little over a week our upstairs neighbor will take a turn, a different upstairs neighbor than the one who watched J for a couple hours just before Christmas so I could go and watch Andrew play the last show ever with his band.
Maybe it's because over Christmas my love for family and for my best friend who lives there grew exponentially as I saw how much they all love my child.
Or because we are headed up to Gossamer Collective for a baby party thrown for us by two of the most creative and beautiful women we know today, and many of our friends are bringing the best of presents: lullabys to sing to J. (we'll record them for her as well.)
Or maybe it's because of the other friends, far away, who consistently show their care and investment: my heart-friend in the Midwest who has sent two giant piles of books for J, many of which contain brown faces in their pages.
But mostly, this week, I am thinking about a member of my village who was the first person I can remember talking out loud about this kind of community with - the kind where you choose to be family with people. It was summer, and we were sitting on the porch of the little blue house where I lived with the ladies who were family to me the latter half of college and beyond. Seeing as it was college, we were probably smoking clove cigarettes, and feeling quite rebellious for an English major and a theology major at a private Christian school.
I don't remember the exact words of our conversation, it was years ago now, but I think K was talking about how ridiculous it was that we were supposed to go out into the world and find one person and then cut ourselves off from everyone else and raise kids - other human beings!- with just that one other person whom, at that point, neither he or I had met yet.
I agreed with him - this made so much sense. I loved my friends so much, why did the fact that we weren't romantically involved preclude their deep involvement in my life and the life of my (imaginary) children??
"You know what?" I told him. "Someday, I want to raise my kids with you. I mean, whoever their dad is, I want him to raise them too. But I want you to be a part of it. And D, and the girls here. I want for us to all have the chance to love each other's families and be a part of their growing up."
I think K agreed with me, and I'd like to think I squeezed his hand and rested my head on his shoulder. If that's not what happened that night, it happened so many times, he was such a comfort to me on many occassions, that its okay if that's how the story ends now in my memory.
A few years ago K took a position working for a relief and development group in Haiti. Last year he took another position there, this time heading the whole thing up. The group's focus was education and environmental issues. I miss him, and Tuesday he was all I could think about until his mother got the word that he'd made it through the quake okay.
I've gone back and forth about whether or not to write about K here (he's not a big fan of people talking about him on blogs) or mentioning the situation in Haiti at all because, really, it reveals how selfish I am. I care about Haiti. But why? I know there are two reasons primarily that I cannot look at pictures or read news reports without emotion threatening to overwhelm me. The first is K, who I don't expect will be able to contact me for quite a while but who is a beloved of mine that is not just looking at pictures but actually living that hell right now. And, if I know him, pushing himself and his trauma aside to do everything he can to save and preserve human life there. I am afraid for him especially because I love him so much. And, I will be honest here, I see my daughter's face in the children there. J is not Haitian, I know this. But a heritage of slavery and oppression at the hands of white folk is something that she has in common with the people there, though her situation is quite different.
I have no idea what an ethical and reasonable response is for someone like me - a new mother without many extra resources financially, without skills that would be helpful there.
But I am going to give money.
K works for this organization. They have low overhead, they have a very good repuatation gobally and in Haiti. You can listen to him talk about the emotional trauma Haiti has experienced here.
My friends Corrigan and Shelley, also college friends who shared a village of sorts with me once, are also in Haiti. They have no overhead, as they're there on their own, working with orphans and widows. Their website, which they haven't updated since the earthquake, is here. They also survived okay, with their children and the haitian orphans they take care of.
There are a lot of reasons why the quake in Haiti was this devastating. They are, mostly, big reasons that individual people like me or you have trouble wrapping our minds around or doing anything on our own to change. I am not an expert on all of these reasons: scientific, political, historical or cultural. But I am involved in some of those reasons. The USA has benefited from practices that have hurt Haiti, and that means I have benefited. I feel some culpability, and I think its appropriate that it makes me uncomfortable. I feel ashamed that if it weren't for K, I might not really care.
If you are a praying person, I invite you to join me in praying. I'm not praying "for Haiti." I am praying for me. That I don't miss any opportunity to help in the ways that are appropriate for me. That I can find the right outlet for the guilt I feel, the best way to make it productive and part of a solution to issues like this in the world. That next time it won't take an earthquake to wake us up, and get us to pay attention.