View Full Version : FAQ: What is a barn raising? Why do we build fences?

May 25th, 2012, 05:43 PM
What is a barn raising? From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_raising):

A barn raising describes a collective action of a community, in which a barn for one of the members is assembled collectively by members of the community. Barn raising was particularly common in 18th- and 19th-century rural North America. A barn was a necessary structure for any farmer, for example for storage of cereals and hay and keeping of animals. Yet a barn was also a large and costly structure, whose assemble required more labor than a typical family could provide. Barn raising addressed the need by enlisting members of the community, unpaid, to assist in the building of their neighbors' barns. Because each member was entitled to recruit others for help, the favor would eventually return to each participant.

Barn raising is an example of a fundamental form of human cooperation - indirect reciprocity. In contrast to direct reciprocity (“I help you and you help me”), indirect reciprocity follows the principle of “You help me and I’ll help someone else” or “I help you and someone else will help me”. It is also known as generalized exchange or pay it forward. Other examples of indirect reciprocity include organ and blood donations, open source software and more generally - open collaboration. The tradition of "barn raising" continues, more or less unchanged, in some Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities, particularly in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and some rural parts of Canada. The practice continues outside of these religious communities, albeit less frequently than in the 19th century, in the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Why do we want to practice barn raising in our community? Why build more barns when it might be easier to just let people use the ones we already have?

I can think of many reasons, but one of them was stated very well by Robert Frost.

The Mending Wall
by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

We are a hub. We exist to serve, not just our own 'members', but the larger community. One of the greatest ways we can serve is by supporting others in serving, because in doing this, we have the potential to reach farther edges of our community, and parts of our community that are different enough that they can not function nearly as well if they are too tightly crowded together in one place.

Good fences make good neighbors. We can help raise barns and build good fences, and we all benefit from them no matter which barn we come home to and which side of the fence we're on. All the rest still welcome our visit, because we are good neighbors.

Let's be good neighbors and help if we can.

May 27th, 2012, 05:16 AM
I love it. Thanks.