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Anatevka: Village Building in the Modern Age

village along the banks of a river
Photo by Clark Van Der Beken on Unsplash

A Universal Village

The musical Fiddler on the Roof has a very special place in my heart. When I was about 12, our little town put on a full production of the show, thanks to the genius of our high school drama teacher, Dana Brown. He magically recreated the village of Anatevka on the stage of our middle school gym. He transformed a sheep farmer into the fiddler and the mild-mannered wife of the middle school principal into the shrieking ghost in Tevye’s dream. It was an incredible performance for a town of 580 people.

Sometime later, I wanted to learn the songs myself and picked up a piano book and set to work. One day, I read the book’s introduction:

As a stage musical, “Fiddler on the Roof” has been seen by 30,000,000 people throughout the world, and everywhere its sincerity and humanity have been instantly recognized. In Tokyo, the Japanese actor who played Tevye declared, “We know why it is a success here, but how is it they liked it in America?”

But it’s an American story! Then I realized… actually, the musical is set in the Ukraine. Yes, it truly is a universal story. It’s our story—all of us.

From Musical to Real Life

We live in the computer age, but we still relate to Tevye’s struggle to come to terms with the changing world around him. And change it does. Just like in the village of Anatevka, there are forces are at work in our world that are mixing things up. People everywhere are on the move—both voluntarily and involuntarily. Some are forced to flee from their homelands to save their lives. Others move out of economic necessity or are climate refugees. Still others seek more opportunity, better access to resources, or perhaps a quiet place to retire. Even on my quiet rural lane, eight new families moved in this year.

Newcomers are learning to make a life for themselves in a new land. Old-timers are being challenged to welcome people who may look and act different from themselves. The story of Anatevka is our story—some of us left, some of us stayed, others arrived from distant lands. Now we are all mixed up together.

Creating A Thriving Village

The beautiful thing is… this makes us richer. A monoculture crop may be efficient at first, but it’s more prone to destruction by pests and diseases. A diverse crop is much more resilient and probably healthier for us.

We people are the same way. When there’s just one way of thinking, we are limited in the solutions we create. But when there’s a rich diversity in our thinking and approaches, we can come up with more robust solutions that work for everyone.

It’s like the old saying, “If your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail.” That’s fine when you’re working with lumber. But to build a house, you also need to work with glass and pipes and wire. A hammer isn’t always the right tool for the job.

But when we have a diversity of tools, skills, approaches and perspectives, we can build a beautiful house. We can build a whole village together—a place where we can all thrive. This is Anatevka at its finest. This what is possible if we choose it.

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