I wake up on a Sunday morning. It’s a nice summers day and some gardening is in order. I make breakfast for the kids and my wife and proceed with the usual morning routine. Out I go to the shed, get the lawn mower and off I go.
I wave to a car coming down the street. It is a guy I know lives a few doors down but I don’t know his name or anything about him but we wave. (I know that is a funny image. Summers day, mowing the lawn and waving to each other, it’s the ultimate =suburban picture.)
The next door neighbor soon approaches and we strike up a small conversation. We know each other fairly well and have helped each other out on a few occasions.
4 doors up the street a family gets in their car. I don’t know a single one of them but hey, I have only been living on this street for 6 years. Up comes car and it is Tom, the man across from the road from me. We have spoken for a total of 120 minutes in the 3,156,480 minutes we have been living across the road from each other.
It was around this same time that the neighbor to Tom had an accident and fell off the roof. The ambulance drivers asked us for some help in lifting him into the ambulance. Of course I helped out and asked the wife if there was anything I could do. But today saying that to an almost stranger doesn’t mean anything. She won’t ask for any help and she never did.
When there is an emergency or a lending of a hand for small tasks everyone is more than happy to help. But this is no where near a community. Who is there to help when you are struggling through the day with your child? Who is there to chat with regarding your feelings or just there to enjoy the day with.
Most commonly that’s your friends, scattered out across the city, country or world. Essentially, they are not there when you need them and you never feel like asking too much upon them as they are most likely dealing with similar issues.
So here we are, isolated and alone, with limited true support raising a family.
Now most of us get by, we do have some good support that helps along the way as we stumble our way through parenting. But there are some remarkable benefits to living in a community.
(The below information was taken from the book Outliers. A fascinating book if you are looking for something to read.)
The story begins in Roseto Valfortore , a small town 100 miles southeast of Rome in Italy. In 1882 11 rosetans left for New York. They finally found work in Pennsylvania. Those migrants sent word back home of the new found opportunity and soon many Rosetans left for America.
The Rosetans soon began buying land and building close together two-storey houses on a rocky hillside. Because most of them were from Roseto, they called the town Roseto after their village in Italy. In 1896 a dynamic young priest came to town and took over the local church. He encourage people to start vegetable / fruit gardens and organized many events. Soon the town came to life with schools, parks, shops and more all being built.
Now that was how the town started. The remarkable fact about the town wasn’t how it was created but the effects it was having on the people. In 1950′s when most of America was suffering from heart disease the Rosetans seemed immune. A local physician said they rarely ever received anyone under the age of 65 with heart disease.
On top of this there was no suicide, alcoholism, drug addication, very little crime and no one on welfare. It was a village that was different than all the others.
Now you might go and assume it was their genes. But they found other Rosetans living in other towns that were faced with poor health like the rest of American. They then assumed it must be the food they were eating but again they were having a very similar diet to the rest of America, including smoking and struggling with obesity
Was there something special in the location? Again neighboring towns, very similar to Roseto showed the same poor health. So what was keeping them healthy? It actually ended up being the social structure of the town.
People would stop and chat to each other in the street, up to 3 generations of family would live under 1 roof, people would cook for each other in their backyards and they all went to mass which they noticed had a large calming effect.
It is amazing to think that the village itself and how close knit people were, had a huge impact on their health.
Now the first thing that came to my mind was I would rather go and jump off something than contemplate living with 3 generations of my family under 1 roof. I wonder if western society could ever return to village living due to the very different lifestyle we live now.
We are very individual, we all have different ways of living that would conflict heavily with others even our family. We are also undisciplined to follow certain social structures and ways of life. Our ability to be who we want to be and do things differently from the norm has enabled our rapid progression in many areas of life, technology and society, yet it has cost us a lot in return.
A village offers support and a less stressful environment but very little in the way of progress or change. Western society offers rapid advancements of all areas of life but with little support and a more stressful environment.
With western society rapidly pushing forward in attitude and spirituality I do believe we can have the best of both worlds, we are just in the progress of learning how to do it and there are bound to be learning curves and bumps along the way.
The entrepreneur in me loves change, new ways of doing things that bring more fun and value into peoples lives. The parent in me wants a nice quiet village with lots of support but also opportunity for my children to be who they want to be.
What are your thoughts on being in a village and would you consider living in one?