A Thank You to “The Village”

“It takes a village to raise a child.”  Often quoted, often derided, but true.  I hear comments all the time: “The village only wants our money, but not what we say.” “I don’t want to ‘raise’ someone’s kids.”  “Don’t rely on the village, we don’t care.”

Like it or not, everyone is a piece of this.  My children watch the reactions of people around them, watch their actions against their words.

It’s true, sometimes I don’t want advice.  For example, when my daughter has been screaming about not putting on her coat, so she’s walking outside in a T-shirt, and someone walks by and says snarkily, “That child should be wearing a coat.”  Yeah, I’m aware.  Next time, she’ll wear it because she’ll remember being cold.  Leave this kind of thing to me.

However, today, something wonderful happened.  I was at a craft store, looking at ornaments.  M was a bit too close, looking at one, when she accidentally knocked it down, and it shattered all over the floor.  She looked up at me, stricken, and handed me the remains of the broken ornament.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.  “I didn’t mean to!”

“Well,” I replied, “We’re going to go tell someone, and pay for this.  And we need to have someone sweep the glass.  What would happen if we left it?”

“Someone would get hurt.”  She looked teary.  “I’m scared to tell them.”

“Yes, but we have to take responsibility.  Come on.”

Nearby were a pair of women.  M looked toward them, and they looked back with a sort of calm, encouraging look.  Encouraging, but unyielding.  She needed that.  She needed the pressure.  Off we went to find an employee.  M handed her the remains of the ornament and quavered, “I’m so sorry.  I broke this, and I didn’t mean to.  We’ll pay for it.”

The employee smiled gently, bent down and said, “You don’t need to pay for it.  We know that those aren’t arranged well, and it’s easy for them to fall and break.  You’re not the only one it happened to.  But thank you so much for being honest.”

M led her to the aisle and showed her the glass.  The two women were still there, and when M was done, they smiled again and nodded at her.

M was still sniffling, so we went into another aisle for a hug.  “I was scared,” she said.  “I’ll be more careful.  But I’m glad it’s cleaned up and they didn’t yell.”

I want to say thank you to those three women.  To the two who were shopping, thank you for watching, not jumping in but putting on silent reassurance that she needed to own up.  To the employee, thank you for your kindness and direct feedback.  All three of you helped teach a little girl that while it may be scary, it’s important to take ownership, tell the truth, and set things right.

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