“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb In 1996,
First Lady Hillary Clinton borrowed this phrase and authored a book based on this premise. What seemed like an innocuous treatise at the time turned out to take on a life of its own. Of course, what else is new in the world of presidential politics when any statement can be turned on its ear. If you have spent any amount of time following the political landscape, you know this is true regardless of affiliation.
Bill Clinton’s opponent that year, Republican nominee Bob Dole, used his acceptance speech at that summer’s convention to take a jab at Hilary’s book. He exclaimed, “It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes a family to raise a child.”
While there is no question parents and other family members play and should play the primary role in molding a child’s core values, others outside the family structure serve a significant function, as well. I think all of us can recall a certain teacher, coach, or mentor, who have helped shape us into what we have become. Mrs. Clinton was right, it does take a village.
This “raising” however doesn’t stop once we reach adulthood. We never truly arrive but are constantly on a journey striving to better ourselves. There are still rough, ragged, edges that need to be smoothed, even as we grow older.
When I think back on the 2014-15 basketball season, most of the games have or will soon fade from memory. What I will remember most are the number of people I have come in contact with who have made such indelible impressions upon my life. As many young people have touched my life over the past few months as those who may be a bit more seasoned. Many have served to offer perspective, to allow me to question what I thought was really important. Some have shown what true toughness is in the face of real adversity. How would I handle such circumstances? The answers I keep coming back with have served as a wake-up call in many instances.
I think back to the season spent with the John Bapst boys basketball team. Despite on 0-18 season, the boys showed tremendous character in representing the school with such class. Despite the results on the floor, the desire to learn and improve was something I can draw upon.
Recently, I marveled at the teamwork shown by Hampden’s first-year unified basketball team. They were the epitome of the word team. The joy on their faces as they competed showed me that perhaps we take all of the happenings in the sports world a little bit too seriously at times. The team won the first MPA sponsored gold ball in the sport but it was really the journey, not the destination, that was most significant. The “partners” and “athletes” came together and they were truly one team.
Individually, I think back to the beginning of the season and the story of Brewer’s Danny Davis. Davis had suffered a stroke prior to tryouts, causing him to miss the entire season. Rather than feel sorry for himself, Danny was there for the team at every practice and every game. Would I have been as dedicated under such circumstances?
For grit under trying circumstances, I think of Hermon’s Claire Petersen. I don’t know Claire personally but her example of toughness has inspired me. She missed half the season due to a serious illness, one that hospitalized her over Christmas break. The spark plug guard came back with the determination of a fighter. Slowly working her way back into the line-up she shined when it mattered most. I think of her hustle. She seemed to get to every loose ball and made several key plays in their prelim win over John Bapst, as well as their quarterfinal victory over Medomak Valley. I saw very few players this winter who had as big a heart as Claire Petersen.
A basketball season isn’t complete for me without bumping into Winslow’s Jim Poulin along the way. Every time I see Coach, he has that glimmer in his eye, asking how I’m doing as if I’m the only person there. Despite a twenty year battle with Multiple Sclerosis, I have never seen Jim Poulin complain about his condition. His tremendous faith is an attribute I aspire to.
This past winter saw Andy Frace succumb to his battle with cancer. When I think of Coach Frace I saw someone that was real. There wasn’t any phoniness or pretentiousness at all and for that I greatly respected him. Many times he would go out of his way to help those who needed it.
While cancer took the life of Coach Frace, I think of someone who is currently dealing with his own battle of this dreaded disease. Eleven-year-old Zak Mills is just over a month into his treatments with a great prognosis ahead of him. Zak’s battle has challenged me to be tougher in areas of my life. Not only is Zak tough but so are his parents, Jason and Andrea, who have held up so remarkably despite this latest setback.
When I visited Zak in the hospital a short time ago, I can’t erase the memory of when I left him that night. I looked into his eyes, we exchanged fist bumps, and he smiled at me with that big smile of his. It was a smile that seemed to say “everything’s going to be okay.” I also think of the tremendous community support that has supported Zak and his family throughout this journey. Yes, it truly has taken a village to help them get through this.
Not only does it take a village to raise a child, I can tell you through personal experience it has taken a village to raise this adult. I am so thankful for the village that continues to raise me.