Everyone needs a village

A foster carer reflects on persevering through challenges.

Ever tried to find a doll with brown hair? It’d say it would be easier to find a needle in a haystack. If the needle was an ant and the haystack was barn.

I’d have a better chance of finding a mythical creature in my car boot.

It was 'The hunt for the brown haired doll'.

'I have a blonde one?' - no, brown.'What about a red one?' - no, brown.'Would black do?' – no, still brown.

I felt like I was on an episode of Supermarket Sweep searching the heights and depths of every shelf in the toy store. Frantically pulling out stuffed crocodiles, purple bears and a gazillion bouncy balls in the hope of seeing a piece of brown thread. Time is never on our side with these things. This routine was repeated in every toyshop within a 10 mile radius. Every contact in my phone book and Facebook was messaged.

Every answer was the same.

Maybe I should explain. I'm a foster carer and two adorable sisters had been placed with me, one with blonde hair and with one brown. I had two dolls that they warmed to, but both had blonde hair. In a highly-regrettable flippant statement I said ‘Well, we will have to get a brown haired one for you!’

I was reminded of this on an hourly basis.

This was not just a doll, it became the protagonist character in her placement and oozed depth that forged a significant connection with her. Knowing her background, it wasn’t hard to understand why she had attached herself so much to this rosey faced comfort. It gave her meaning and told her that she was accepted, and even with her idiosyncrasies, she belonged.

To my absolute shame I even tried to colour in the hair with a felt tip and sell it as having an ‘umbre’ style. She was not buying it and rightly so. She deserved more.

The placement was a tricky one and after a very busy day at work in which all my breaks were used up answering the phone to social workers, I came home to find this, left for us by a friend:

It may not have been brown, but pink was not only well-received, the thoughtfulness of the gift bestowed love not just on the children, but on me too.

I really needed it.

To know in those moments of madness when I think I am not doing a good enough job, that there was a village ready to be called on. My village. My support network. My army of help. To pray, to check in, offer car seats and organise day trips that take the weight off. They care for me. They get sudacrem when I run out and can't get out of the house.

You are the village who help raise them.You are the village who show they are worthy of love.You are the village who gives me strength.

My friend was a missionary in Nigeria and affectionately told me about how your house is always open. To your neighbours, cousins, aunties, brothers, or nephew's girlfriend's cat. Fed and watered for one night would soon become months later, when they would have a place in the family Christmas card picture.

I long for this. The annoyance, upheaval, extra food and invasion of space all fails in comparison to the beauty of building the village.

“God wants us to have soft hearts and hard feet.” Jackie Pullinger

When a lion cub is learning to hunt, they are ushered by the pride to observe the ways of their elders. The lioness shares all her parental duties with the rest of the females, even the feeding. The ownership to prepare these cubs for life in the wild is shared together. They are fiercely raised by the pride.

So here’s to the pride.

To the strong hearts of the village whose lives overflow with simple acts. These small acts may seem like nothing to you, but in reality, they knit together to create a safe space for the vulnerable to wander.

To you who take the time to look the children in the eye and call them by name. Your warmth affirms their lives are of importance and that invites them to live it fuller.

To you whose journey is different, but yet you still selflessly ask how things are going. To know that people care about the path can help keep you on it.

To you who offer practical support like toiletry bags, ice skating trips or a box of lego. You become a role model of love that works towards overcoming the doubts they are worthy of it.

To you who fiercely pray and fight the spiritual battle for our precious adopted and fostered children, these are bullets of light that can shattered the darkness in the lives.

To you who answer the parenting questions to reassure and help, your wisdom shapes and teaches so I can best prepare these children for life.

To you who invite others to belong, because there's always more room in the village.

“A child belongs not to one parent or home. A child’s upbringing belongs to the community.” African Proverb

You are the village who help raise them. You are the village who show they are worthy of love. You are the village who gives me strength. Thank you.

Julie (Village Faith)



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