The barn-raising is an old, beautiful tradition. It’s an expression of community solidarity, shared sacrifice and mutual aid all wrapped up in one perfect-little-pragmatic wrapper. Farmers needed barns to survive and usually couldn’t build them by themselves, so the community would show up to help new arrivals to the community or established members of the community who had suffered a loss to raise a new barn to store their grain, house their animals and protect their livelihoods.
Now, we don’t want to go totally nostalgic on barn-raisings. It’s hard, sweaty work building a barn (or at least I’d imagine it is…I’ve never actually built one), and before the advent of power tools and lumber yards, it was even harder. But the thing is, every member of a community had been helped in the past or knew they would surely need help at some point in the future, so they each in turn grabbed what tools they had, what labor they could pull together and they went over to lend a hand.
Now, we went through a bit of a barn-raising ourselves recently, though I’m not sure we really recognized what was happening at first.
We bought a house that “had great bones” and just “needed a little TLC” that we could “totally get finished by the time we needed to move out of our rental” (famous last words, anyone?). Well, as you can imagine, there are plans and then there is life and then there is the inevitable series of unplanned catastrophes that often accompanies buying a house that’s half a century old when you have two little ones and a hard deadline for when it absolutely-has-to-be-done-or-your-whole-world-will-come-unravelling-at-the-seams.
But then, out of the blue, we had our own little barn-raising.
Friends and family and coworkers and neighbors and acquaintances just kind of…showed up. They brought what tools they had and what labor they could scrounge up and showed up to knock down walls and put up ceilings and crawl through insulation and haul stuff out to the dumpster. They stayed late on weeknights and gave up their weekends and ate takeout in the one room in the house that wasn’t a disaster area.
We were building a house, sure, but we were building something else, too.
That’s the thing about community. You live outside of it for so long, and often spend your formative years searching desperately for it. You invest time and energy in people and share your heart and your home and your faith and your table and it’s not because you want to get something out of it, but because you know deep down that this is the way that it’s supposed to be.
Then, one day you look around at the people who are helping you build your house and you realize that the “way it’s supposed to be” is what’s happening right in front of your face, that the community you’ve looked for all of your life and that you thought just maybe you’d never find and that maybe it was somehow your fault is now standing in your demolished kitchen at 1AM on a Tuesday.
And maybe for the first time in your life, or at least for the first time in a long time, you feel like you’re home.