When the village comes through

This past week my oldest daughter Riles completed an apprenticeship with a local vet clinic. Well, “local” is really a relative word. The clinic is located in Brookhaven, we live in South Fulton, and with Atlanta traffic, it basically meant I spent several hours each day (both ways) in traffic. Fortunately some good friends of ours who live within minutes of the clinic offered to assist with pick up duties and even let her spend the night for the last night. That’s the benefit of having a village right?

Riles at her first day at the vet clinic

Really, this entire week has been a reminder to me of just how important our village has been for sustaining our family, as well as the role we play in contributing to one another’s success. As we like to say to one another every time a member of the village comes through, we all we got. The week started with us taking in our god-kids for a few days which was both a blast and also super exhausting with 6 kids in the house. Then, on Monday we got a call from my mother in law who lives up the street from us… her AC was out. Yikes. It’s springtime in Atlanta, which basically means that it’s starting to approach summer temps. We sprung into action, and I ended up spending a half a day waiting on the HVAC repairman with my sick three year old in tow. I got a call from my mom who needed something taken care of, a message from a younger sibling going through a work crisis, and before you know it I’d spent most of my week putting out other people’s fires it seems.

That’s why it was so nice to be able to reach back to the village and get some support with Riles. It actually was a great lesson for her as well in the power of social capital, something that her school spends time explicitly exploring with both learners and adults. As black folks we’ve always known that it’s not simply what you know, but who you know that makes a difference. I’m just glad that we’ve found an environment that explicitly reinforces that fundamental truth and encourages young people to proactively build and tap into their social networks.

One cool way that we talked about the different types and ways to leverage social capital was at a recent parent gathering (little did I know that this conversation would be the preface for a week of real life social capital implications). Bonding social capital: represents the relationships with those who are like you, typically those closest to you. It’s the Moore family in Brookhaven, black friends of ours who attend our church, have two daughters around the same age as my oldest two girls. We share racial, cultural, and religious traditions with this family, of course they were willing and able to step in immediately. They understand more easily than most what we were going through and how to be there for us.

Then there’s bridging social capital, representing the relationships with folks across lines of difference who bring diversity to our networks and play an important role in our own growth. Finally, linking social capital which explicitly connects to those in power. My daughter Riley was able to tap into each of these as she initially talked to our own vet (a black woman in our neighborhood), where she learned that unfortunately her practice didn’t offer apprenticeships for students, but did suggest a few additional places. This led to Riles tapping into our networks (I know a few black farmers and agriculturalists) that I connected her to. She finally landed (after cold-calling a few places once our trail ran dry) an apprenticeship with lovely locally owned clinic ran by people who were all new to us, but now also additions to her social network.

Ironically, we ended the week right back where it all started for me, back home in South Carolina this weekend visiting my mom and grandma. I owe almost all of my start and where I am today to the network that this woman helped me build. I watched the girls play in the yard that I used to roam as a kid and listened to my grandmother talk (or fuss) about keeping the land in the family and school us on the ways of life as she sees it. It was another reminder that we really are all we got.

Grandma holding court
My mom doing her vacation bible school arts and crafts thing with the girls


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