I was sitting on the dirt floor of Eugenia's house in Rwanda. I asked her how her life had changed since becoming an artisan with a woman's co-op in her village.
I expected to hear 'My kids now have food to eat every day. I can now afford to send my children to school.'
And Eugenia did tell me those things.
And then she paused, took a deep breath, and a deep joy beamed from her eyes as she started speaking.
I waited with baited breath for our translator to fill me in. He translated her words:
'But do you know what the best thing is? I now have a community of women to live life with. Although we all make similar products, we do not compete against each other. We work as a community. We walk together to the co-op to deliver our products. If one of us is sick, the others till her land. I'm no longer lonely.'
Her words were so profound to me.
A common theme I see here in the first world is that we compete in a nature that cuts others down in order to position ourselves on top.
- Slamming a competitor in our field to secure a customer.
- Ensuring our spot as a top tier bestie by highlighting 'the crazy' in friend x.
- Knocking the mom that never has her ish together (bless her -- let's add her to the prayer chain.)
While we've all been on the receiving end of this in some way, let's have a come to Jesus talk with ourselves and admit that we've been the one dishing out these jealousy-fueled statements as well.
To establish that coveted spot at the top.
I have a major girl crush on singer / songwriter Kacey Musgraves. In her song Step Off, she has a killer lyric that goes:
'Sticks and stones can build a throne, but you'll be up there all alone.'
Praise hands, Kacey. All of the praise hands.
I think we've all been up there all alone, haven't we?
Looking back at the times I've felt most lonely in my life is when I had a mindset that there can only be one winner. And I went at it alone. Full force. And it was tiring.
I think we've all felt lonely making that long walk to the co-op by ourselves.
On that afternoon in November in Rwanda, I looked at Eugenia and thought 'I want what you have.'
(My husband and I with members of Eugenia's co-op. Photo courtesy of The Flourish Market.)
It turned out to be a timely life lesson.
In the next few months that followed, sh*t hit the fan in my life. Adulting became really, really hard.
When people have a baby, folks always say 'Ask for help. It takes a village!'
But what the hay -- we need to extend this sentiment to all of general adulthood.
It is NOT EASY.
And it's not meant to be walked alone.
In the first few weeks of 2016, I quickly learned the need to rally a village around me, and to let my friends till my land.
I had to let down barriers and say 'I'm not perfect. I don't have it all together. I need you.'
I learned that the first step in building a village is to admit that you need one.
When we're feeling low and secretly clutching a seat on the struggle bus, I think our first temptation is to focus on, and call out the inadequacies in others in an effort to make ourselves feel and appear better.
Eugenia and the women I have met in the developing world have so much to teach us about living in authentic community.
When people make a purchase in our fashion truck, many express their excitement to do a 'good deed' -- to invest in the life of a vulnerable woman.
I've learned in the last few months that I want us to dig deeper.
When you wear that new necklace or top, I want you to be reminded that just as you had the opportunity to intercede in a woman's life in the third world, your first world self is in desperate need of a village to intercede in your life as well.
May we embrace the good news that it takes a village.
(Eugenia and I in front of her women's co-op. Photo courtesy of The Flourish Market.)