Letters to My Kids: The Language of a Village
The other day my twin sister and I entertained a thought. We talked about how we live in a world where the use of “I” is overwhelming and the use of “we” is underappreciated. My sister used the term “Village Language” to coin the use of “we” instead of “I” when we talk about our families, schools and even relationships.
This letter to my kids is a reflective piece that has been a journey. There are so many times where “I” is important and is valued in our culture. And I wonder if the “I” is valued more than the word “we”. But, in the end isn’t “I” just a lonely leaf hanging, and perhaps “we” need to take the time to use the words more “we” than “I” in our relationships, families, schools, local communities and religious communities.
My twin sister and I are often mixed up because we are twins, but one of the greatest values of being a twin is the sense of “we”.
Dear Sarah and James,
“We” is a powerful word. It has transformed families, communities, groups, countries and has moved people from shame to courage in an instant. What is it about the word “we” that is so powerful?
Firstly, I think we are built to be in community and in relationships with others. Hurt, frustration, lack of communication and disagreements cause wedges in friendships, classmates, partnerships, marriages, families, churches, organizations and the list goes on. Often we feel that somewhere between the individual pursuing a connection with another person there can be a chance of hurt.
Have you heard of the chicken experiment? There was a lovely TED Talk about an experiment about chickens and how these researchers took the “top” producing chickens and put them all together, but the end of the experiment competition got the best of them and there were only a few select left . . . living. True survival of the fittest! They also put chickens that produced well, but were not dominant (independent minded) in their production compared to the first experimental group. The experiment was a success. This group thrived and all the chickens were living in the end. Now, I know this is a little extreme, but it does play a role in how we are driven. Are we driven to glorify “I” or to glorify “We”? To learn more about this experiment listen to the NPR podcast on Work here.
There is such an amazing synergy when there are groups that work together in synergy. Brene Brown is a big believer that Shame hinders us from connecting with others. However, empathy is a huge component of growth and creativity that can nurture and nourish the “We” instead of the “I”.
In the book Creativity Inc. written by Ed Catmull, Ed talks about the amazing journey of Pixar and how there were mountain top experiences and also deep valley experiences when growing into a successful animation business. He believes that creativity within a team needs to be necessary to make an organization thrive.
The Use of “Our”
I think that when we start looking at “our” kids; “our” schools; “our” neighbourhoods etc. we start realizing that there is ownership and responsibility to be part of the nurturing. Village language is using the words “we” and “our”. I heard a TED talk once about the power of words and the Opportunity of Adversity. You can watch it here by Aimee Mullins.
“Our” Village Idea?
Perhaps if we start emphasizing the use of we within our homes, schools, communities, cities, and countries, then perhaps we may start a revolution of words. When one of us has an idea to contribute, perhaps if we look at this idea as “our” idea then perhaps we are more likely to foster empathy and less on shame. Shame cannot thrive within empathy. Perhaps when one of us is suffering, then we can look at it as all of us suffering. And hence, comes empathy and the spoken Village Language.
Empathy – feeling what another person feels. Once we can empathize then we can push shame into the gutter. See shame hinders our growth. If we celebrate each of our strengths and each of our humanness, then maybe we can all start beginning to develop a “village language” that will spread from our children to our families, to our teachers, to our churches, to our communities and throughout the bigger picture.
Perhaps a new dawn is rising and we should focus on using words that unify and help each other. Perhaps you may take the challenge today to change your I to We.
Maybe “We” should just try it!