By Deborah Schroder
Do you remember the childhood story of the Little Red Hen? She went around the farmyard asking other animals to help her plant the seeds, nurture the wheat, harvest the grain and bake the bread. And no one would help her. So she did it all herself.
I think that I must have taken that story in pretty deeply! This quarter I’ve enjoyed participating in some leadership circles that have brought people together who work at Southwestern but who don’t always spend much time together. A recent conversation helped me see that I can move into that “little red hen” place easily.
A few years ago I had a colleague who had no interest in collaborating. And so I closed the door (metaphorically, I rarely close my actual office door), and worked very independently, eventually feeling like I held the world of art therapy on my shoulders.
And I certainly was the ultimate little red hen during the last few years of my marriage. I held three jobs (one full-time) and managed a household with three children, after giving up on having a responsible partner.
In both of these examples, at work and at home, it’s painful to admit the kind of smug pride I relied on to move through those difficult times. That kind of strange satisfaction in doing it all seems to have been given subtle approval in the white, middle class family I grew up in. It seemed that personal achievement usually out-weighed the value of being part of a community and relying on other people for help.
In light of what I’ve learned from my students who come from cultures that value a deep sense of community, I think I kind of missed the boat on this one. It sounds healthy and satisfying to think of oneself as always connected to a larger group, giving and receiving in community. Seems like it’s time to be more open to the collective wisdom and strength of the farmyard.