Notes from my Minivan: Build the Village

From the Editors MinivanI spend a lot of time in my minivan driving four kids here and there, there and here. It’s one of the few places where I can actually think, sometimes. These are my thoughts, scribbled on napkins and receipts. A monthly look into raising kids and living in Lake County.

Note: all opinions belong to me and only me and are not a reflection of those of our advertisers, partners or other writers.


We shared a post this past week, “I Miss the Village”, that had more than 5,000 views and 65 likes. It’s not the first time we have shared a story like that; it’s a common theme seen in this modern parenting sphere. The rallying cry of, “Where is my village, I want a village!”  I myself have written and expressed (loudly, on stage) similar pleas for this idyllic idea of a parenting village.

I’ve since learned this:

If you want a village, BUILD ONE.

It’s not hard. It does not require grand gestures. Quite simply it means building bridges and not walls. It means changing our first instinct from fear, accusation and anger to thoughts of caring, help and reaching out. It means instead of calling the police when we see a child playing outside alone we stop and say “Hi,” and ask if they need help or say “Where is mom?” We’ve seen the headlines of parents being arrested because their kids were playing alone outside. Imagine if instead of calling the police, we had simply asked if they were okay?

free range child

Be Present

I’m thankful for my neighborhood — chosen specifically because it was full of children. Moving from the city, we were used to always being outside and walking to parks and making new friends everyday. When we drove around through other neighborhoods I couldn’t grasp the absence of people. Gorgeous afternoon, beautiful yards– and no one was outside. Where were the people? The kids?

Building a village, a community, starts by simply being there — being outside, being in the neighborhood. Taking a daily walk, sitting on your patio, visiting your local shopping district. Do it with your phone in your pocket, looking at people you pass. Smile. Say hi. If you make it a habit, you will start to meet people, learn who they are and build your community. We fear our neighbors only because we don’t know them.  We see only the cars moving in and out and eyes peeking from behind curtains.

Be Connected

When you get out, you connect — you connect with your environment, your street, your neighbors. You notice when things change. You see signs of growth and signs that someone needs help. Your village extends beyond your block — connect with others. Find a parenting group or a book club. Go to your local library or find an organization that aligns with your hobbies, interests or beliefs. Friends all start out as strangers. If you truly want the village, then go out there and build it!

yard kids

Be a Contributor

Lastly, contribute. It’s easy to say, “I don’t need to step up; someone else will.” As I am that over-committed person who always says yes,  I can tell you that you will be welcomed with open arms! Wish you knew your neighbors? Host a picnic or a driveway happy hour. It doesn’t have to be a big production. A table with some snacks, a pitcher of punch and some note cards left on your neighbors’ doors. They are probably craving the village as much as you.

Be Locally Minded

Shop local. Visit the market, the local stores and restaurants; get to know the owners. They all have stories. They’re more like you than you think. They are not some special breed of people; they are your neighbors who just decided to share their passion, go out on a limb and risk a lot to build a village. Your risk is much less — just show up. Do more than like them. Support them, buy their products, eat their food, go to their shows.

The village is there; we just have to be willing to enter it. Are you willing?

Make this a fantastic fall and find, or build your village, with my suggestions for a fabulous, community-building fall.

community buildng fall activities

Dance academy of Libertyville
About Melissa Haak 1266 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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