We are Village People. And not just because pretty much every person in America and beyond knows the lyrics and could bust out the choreography to the legendary song “YMCA”. This description of humanity in Jennie Allen’s book (“Get Out of Your Head”) has been floating around in my mind for weeks. It explains why I feel so unsettled–why I think a lot of us feel “not quite right” in our World these days–these past months. Unbelievable–almost this past year.
When the pandemic hit, were scattered from our villages. They were pillaged and plundered by Covid and in effort to stay safe, we went into hiding. Some of us didn’t mind this, at first. We were frightened and huddled in our spaces for protection. Some were lucky (at least it seemed so at first) to be quarantined with their family. Others, for a plethora of reasons, were forced to isolate even from ones they loved so everyone could remain safe.
After months of this retreating, even those sequestered with their families started to get a little Antsy. The quality time and permission to be “home alone” together started to lose its novelty.
I regularly pray for those who have been quarantined with a critical, harmful, abusive spouse or mother or father. My heart aches for parents with children who need intense structure and instruction outside of the home and can’t get it. Many have been forced into roles that they are not equipped for. The stress levels and daily challenges of even your average children, cooped up and home schooled by parents with full time jobs are off the charts.
I know I am not saying anything we don’t all know and have whined about for months. All of us have dozens of examples of how this time has changed their lives forever. But here is why I think it has been so heavy on us, or at least on me: I believe we were created to be Village People.
We are not meant to live in isolation. God created us for community. For all the good, bad and ugly of it, community is still what our heart beats for. Love and affection and being able to touch, caress, hug, or pat the back of another human being is something we all need.
Many of us forget how badly we need it until it happens; some renegade ignores the rules and gives us a big bear hug or god-forbid, shakes or squeezes our bare hand.
The other day I had to get my picture taken for something at work–without a mask. It took me about 10 minutes because I could not form my mouth into a smile that didn’t look forced or creepy. It disturbed me for days. I finally realized it was because my muscles had forgotten how to form a smile. I spend days with a mask on in public places with a zombie-like gaze, not speaking to or giving that little awkward smirk we give to strangers as we pass them at stores and coffee shops. I am just blank under my mask. I think I might be getting frown lines!!
Now that things seem to be opening up a little more, I hear talk about how people are going to continue working from home or offices, deciding to just shut their doors and do everything online. This makes me sick to my stomach. Why? Because we are Village People. And Village people do life in their Village–in person. Around the fire they reason things out and laugh and are physically present with one another.
Social media and Zoom provide false intimacy. We have taken our hiding and image management to a whole different level! How many of you have done a Zoom meeting while in the bathroom or half dressed or in bed with your pretty picture frozen on the screen (I am raising my hand!). When I am on a zoom meeting my mind is half there, if I am lucky, and half on my actual surroundings. Usually I am multi-tasking during it and am not “present”.
Sure, I have enjoyed some mornings watching church from my living room. But what about the desperate soul who needs us to be Jesus’ actual hands and feet? They are not in my living room. And since I barely know what day it is most of the time, I forget to even “go” to church at all! All this isolation and church online is making us even more self absorbed and narcissistic than we already are. Anyone can be loving, patient, kind and compassionate when there are no real people to bump up against.
OK, I feel like I am ranting now. That is not my intention. In review, I just deleted approximately 7 explanation points from that last paragraph. Didn’t want you to feel like I was yelling at you. But I am a little desperate, pleading with you to get back to your Villages as soon as it is safe to do so. This was a detour for our world, and as soon as humanly and safely possible, please get back to real-life living and loving and embracing each other. When you can get rid of your mask, smile like you did after you first fell in love; for days and days and days for apparent reason.
Your Villages may need some mending and rebuilding and restructuring when you return. Don’t despair. Be creative and determined to restore the places you were abruptly forced to abandon. But don’t give up. Don’t believe the lie that you can do life from home from now on.
The world needs real community. You need it and it needs you. We are Village People.
Take back your Villages.