Work Weekend At Powell House
"The purpose of the work weekend is not to get work done, it's to build community"
~ Bob Houghton
Saturday started wet and rainy and in truth my motivation to participate was next to nil. As a matter of my word, I said I'd be there and I was there albeit just going through the motions. I had just started setting up the wood splitter when Jim came out to join me. Lending a hand he helped me set it up. That lightened my mood. And it slowly dawned on me that Bob's words were the truest thing I'd heard in a long time.
The solidarity of work is powerful. It binds us through a shared sense of purpose. And so we cut and split and stacked wood in the pouring rain ... and it was good. As the time passed Jim and I developed a synchronous rhythm of placing the logs and shaving off just enough to make them easy to handle for the person putting them in the fire sometime next year.
And then it happened. I lifted a log that was a little awkward and my back decided to twerk and twang. I dropped the log and was out of commission. And right behind me was Scott. He filled in for me while I went to do some yoga and sort my back out. The sweet thing about all of this is that even though I was super annoyed that I could no longer complete the task that I'd started the community filled in the missing man and it all worked out.
No amount of rugged individualism can substitute for community. There will come a time, young or old, strong or weak, when we need community support. The measure that we give of ourselves is rewarded back to us in unexpected ways. As I lay there on the floor of the Anna Curtis Center I was asked by many people if I was okay and each one totally supportive of restoring my well being.
After dinner, one of the young people said to me "if I want to introduce a friend to the Quakers, I don't say a word to them. I just bring them to a work weekend. They really get it after that."
On Sunday morning I hobbled into the Anna Curtis Center to support the remaining projects as best I could and Elise came to me and said that she was a massage therapist and would I like her to work on me. And there it was -- the unexpected gift showing up in the space of solidarity we all created together. I gratefully gave myself to her able hands and after an hour of stretching my piriformis, psoas, and lumbar muscles I began to feel normal again. The twinge was gone. I could bend and stand up straight again.
The weekend is now over. The wood is stacked into neat piles. There is a new compost bin. The library books are sorted. The sewing work is done. The laughter lingers and there will be stories to tell at future work weekends as friendships deepen and we remember what we are grateful for.
Late on Sunday afternoon, Bob's words landed like a home run with bases loaded. I did not really 'get' what work weekends were about until this past weekend. Thanks Bob!
10/31/2018 04:46:04 am
Beautifully said Joe. Maybe you remember that song from the group Bright Morning Star, back in the 1980's. They sang, "My life is more than my work, and my work is more than just a job." Keep up the great work for a better life and a better world!
10/31/2018 08:34:12 am
This is a beautiful example of the alternative to the dominant American narrative of the ideal of the rugged individualist. The cowboy narrative ignores the grange, the barn raising, and the community center. Your narrative has a place for all of them.
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