Andrew Jackson said, “One man with courage makes a majority.” Yes, that’s true in defining moments or great accomplishments. When we study history we often glorify outstanding individuals and singular achievements. During our colonial period several qualities which define American ideals developed: diversity, mobility, political and personal freedoms, and individuality, for example. Progress, change, and growth may start with one person’s idea or initiative, but in the larger sense, there are almost always many individuals, groups, or linear contributions involved. It does not diminish the significance of the individual because we acknowledge the many who make that history.
We can cite numerous examples of individualistic spirit: the Pilgrims, Jamestown, and other early settlers. However, the Puritans were a cohesive community bound by shared values, and Jamestown failed miserably until the members learned to work together. We see westward-moving pioneers as self-reliant, which they most certainly were, but they traveled in wagon trains for safety and developed systems of interdependence for survival, helping construct neighbors’ houses or defending themselves. Transcontinental railroads were funded by wealthy barons, but they (like big business) were built and operated by the efforts of countless workers. Discoveries are made on the foundation of previous ones. World War II in Europe was not won solely by Generals Bradley, Patton, or even Eisenhower, but by the millions of GI’s, like my father, or divisions like the 101st Airborne whose loyalty to units, country, and their buddies brought victory. We landed men on the moon not just by virtue of the courageous astronauts, but because of the dedicated teams of scientists and support personnel who rendered the missions possible. It takes three branches, dozens of agencies, and federal, state, and local levels to guarantee the proper function of our democratic form of government. Most presidents surround themselves with a diversity of advisors to be able to make difficult decisions. Even though the United States is the richest, strongest, and freest nation in the history of the world, we often need the support of our allies or even broader coalitions to deal with global issues.
As a teacher I would like to believe that my abilities and leadership were responsible for the successes of my students, while actually their own abilities and motivation, the support of their parents, and the efforts of my colleagues all were significant factors. Collective endeavor, shared values, and common goals lighten the load and sweeten the results.
So, does it “take a village” to care for each other and our world? Indeed it does in one important dimension, because we must support, sustain, forgive, love and care for each other, especially those who cannot do that for themselves. Each of us plays a different role, makes a unique contribution, and has our own perspective. The sum of the parts exceeds the whole. Teamwork breeds success and gratifies everyone – giver and receiver. We are the family of God. Unity strengthens the effort, magnifies the results, and enhances the individual members. Together we can greatly multiply our caregiving power. Not incidentally, we also receive healing benefits from our gifts of kindness, generosity, and compassion. Surely, this fulfills God’s commandment to love one another and our duty to love God. Surely, it does “take a village” to advance the condition of mankind and to build the kingdom of God.
Prayer: Dear Lord, teach us to stand up as individuals for our convictions and to join together to care for others as you do. Strengthen our efforts to do good works and live lives of love. We thank you for our particular gifts which we use to act in your name. Amen.