All the talk about the college national championship game reminded me of something a football coach once said to me: “We are trying to make champions over here.” At that time, I was a mom who had been living with the decision to step away from my career goals and dreams to dedicate my energy, time and genius to childrearing. When I made that major life decision, I really had no idea that my home would become a safe house and my car a safe ride for my kids and countless other children. This safe house, car ministry phenomenon became my reality without any planning or any expectation on my part. I learned that I had a kid magnet that drew children into my space on a regular basis. My existence became defined by the steady presence of children in need of food, encouragement, rides, safety or just an adult who would listen before speaking in a place free of judgment. Not only did I believe I was providing a much needed sense of community to kids, I found that those watching this developing trend affirmed my spirit, passion and burden to be a caretaker of children in the community. They entrusted me with their most precious cargo. When the children appeared, my attention turned to discovering the child’s immediate needs and then doing my part to address those needs.
Because I spent so much time and energy looking out for children in the community, the coach’s statement about “making champions” struck a nerve and I gave a response that was fueled by a bit of aggravation, shock and insult. I replied, “What do you think I’m doing at my house; I am making champions too!” I never forgot the pregnant silence precipitated by my passionate, educational and enlightening response. At the time, I believed the only product of that exchange was that awkward silence. Instead, our emotional exchange made me aware of the similarities between team building in the structure of the workplace and the need for a team consciousness in communities. Communities desirous of successful, competent, well-rounded children must intentionally and purposefully operate like members of a professional workplace.
Verbalizing that my goal in life was “building champions at my house” made the mission of being an excellent villager a living, breathing thing. My role as an established villager meant welcoming children into my “home” whether “home” was the house, the car, the bleacher seat next to me, a camp site or the concession stand. The saying that “Home is where the heart is” was applicable in my life as a villager. Excellent villagers should allow the warmth of their hearts to permeate the space they occupy and fill the place with the life, hope, and vibrant energy of a beating heart.
I learned that the vitality of the village rested on a movement of steady infusions of warm, caring, positive, hope-filled message. The children listened when the messages were presented with a calm, attentive and concerned voice. Excellent villagers focus on how to consistently encourage children in the village to achieve greatness in personal, academic, and social endeavors or challenges. Most exciting was the realization that the children who championed these ideals generally felt successful in their lives and that success had the potential to breed more success. I found out that the strength of an excellent villager was in the ability to manage his or her individual roles assuring that the productivity of the village aligned with the expectations of high achieving well-rounded, secure children. Excellent villagers considered it an honor to provide for the children when they needed support.
Excellent villagers may not change the world all by themselves, but they can certainly live out my dad’s directive to “make a difference in the place where you find yourself.” What children in your community need the positive influence of an excellent villager? Make it a goal to connect at least one child in your community to someone who will offer them support in personal, academic, or social needs.