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A Modern-Day Barn Raising


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I recently had a remarkable experience.

A dear friend of mine is going through a significant life change, and she sent out the call for friends to come and help her reorganize her home. So a handful of her friends and relations gathered to divide and conquer the task of helping her create a new home life.

As she explained when she showed us her project list – from which we got to pick what was most interesting or best fit our skills – when she made her list, she looked at it and realized it would take forever to do it alone. She felt overwhelmed. So she called for help. Which was, as one of her friends said, a brave (and wise) thing to do.

So each of us picked a project. The kitchen was reorganized, the office/guestroom/dumping-ground became a meditation room/guestroom/office, the living room and dining room were reorganized. Furniture was redistributed or repurposed, art was hung, and electronics were hooked up.

Sometimes we worked alone, and sometimes we teamed up. There was a lot of collaborating – What if we moved this over there? Could this go in the other room? Could you hold this level while I mark the wall? – and a lot of laughter.

Part of what was so remarkable was that people brought themselves and their skills, but left their egos at home. Another was the unspoken idea that if you were a friend of hers, you must be OK. I felt quite honored to be included in that. Everyone was interesting, and everyone was interested. I only knew two people when I arrived, but I felt like I had several new friends when I left.

The idea of the “barn raising” is an old one, rooted in the fabric of what makes communities work. We go with a primary purpose in mind but, as so often happens in life, we often end up receiving as well as giving.

What did I receive? Aside from the new friends that I met, and the sense of pleasure and satisfaction I get when I think of my friend looking happily around her “new” home, my sense of wonder was refreshed. Wonder at the openness, generosity and curiosity of her friends. Wonder at this little community (one of my favorite subjects) of which I am a part – a community whose uniting factor was our friend, as well as the values we share.

I’m sitting here thinking about this story, and my recent posts, wondering about the threads that connect them. The threads that jump out at me are not only the way the people that day were curious about each other, but also the unexpected gifts I received by showing up and being open. Back to Martin Buber and his quote that I love: “Every journey has secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

Do you practice noticing things like that?

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