Christina here, writing about the joys and frustrations of living in a place where I receive so much, and also sometimes feel like I give a lot. Sunday is a very Dancing Rabbit-ish day for me, and this week is no different. It’s one of the fullest days of the week, and definitely the one when I spend the most time giving back to my community.
As I am writing this, I just got finished with a clean team shift (we all take turns doing community service to maintain our common spaces), and between now and dinner, I still have the Week in Preview meeting (aka the WIP) where we get together to schedule village events, and one of my final five or six Village Council meetings before I am off of my two-year term. Add to that some informal duties as a liaison for the current visitor session, and at the end of the day I might feel a little spent.
Last night was the visitor Q and A, an event when our visitors can ask us questions on anything, from our favorite part of living here to what our families think about our choice to move to a rural intentional community in northeast Missouri. It truly is my favorite event of the visitor session because it gets me to reflect on my own life, and why I chose to leave behind a house, family, and a steady job to move here.
One of the questions that has been rolling around in my mind since then was about how many hours we spend on work, versus how many hours we spend on “things that are fun for us”.
This is always an interesting question for me, since I tend to distinguish between work that pays, and work that doesn’t, which I guess most people would call hobbies. (My final answer was that I spend an average of about 15 hours per week on income work, though I have learned that I am much much happier when I don’t track those hours.) But really, it isn’t so easy to make that distinction.
I get paid for being on the Village Council, though if I were to average out all the hours that I spend on council work in a given week, I might be making as little as five dollars per hour. I get paid for being in the dairy co-op in cheese and milk, but at a few pounds of cheese per week, that’s not a great pay rate either. Add to that the work that I do homeschooling my two kids, working in the garden, and working on other committees in the village, and it feels like a lot of time working — in fact, it adds up to way more than 40 hours a week.
One thing that I love about it all is that I get to choose. I decide where I want to plug in and where I hope that someone else will take up the slack. (If the village ever asks me to handle the accounting or car repairs, we’ll all be in trouble.) I contribute where I think I have some skills, or maybe where I’d like to develop some new ones.
I also get to decide how I spend my days. Temperatures are going to be in the 90s for the next few days, so I will likely spend a lot more time indoors enjoying the AC and working on the computer. Or maybe I’ll decide to just get sweaty and finish weeding that garden bed that has been bothering me for days. Or maybe I’ll just get a beer at the Mercantile, or hit the pond with the kids.
The weekly Sunday clean team works similarly. I might decide to spend an hour organizing the books in the kids room, while someone else decides to thoroughly scrub the showers. Everyone contributes in the best way that they can, and no one questions what others are doing. I can tell you (as I sit in the newly clean common house, enjoying the smell of Citra Solv and the cool community computer room) that the common house looks great right now. Even though it is used by upwards of thirty people a day, it is probably cleaner than many parts of my own house, which is only used by four people.
As I look forward to the rest of this week, I am anticipating giving to my community in some other ways that will likely be much more challenging than dusting shelves in the library. I have agreed to facilitate what might be a tough meeting, and I don’t have much experience in that role. But I love that I feel encouraged here to give back in ways that might be a stretch for me; and of course the receiving of that contribution is a gift to me as well.
Sometimes there are so many different pieces to remember that I drop a ball or two. For instance, this column was due about an hour ago, but I completely forgot that it was my turn to write it. And I might be about seven months behind on one of my Village Council tasks. And sometimes it doesn’t feel like much fun. (I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I was reminded, while working through the grime in a corner, that I was late in turning in the column.) And I don’t always love wading through waist-high poison ivy while I chase after an escaped goat.
But the rewards that I get back for what I give — living in an incredible place that supports me in so many ways; connections to people, the land, (and those goats!), that I could never find working a 40-hour week; freedom to schedule my day how I want; learning experiences that have pushed and challenged me like nothing I have experienced before I moved here — are so worth everything that I give back.
If you are curious to see what our village common house looks like, or about any of the other things going on here, we are offering a free tour on Saturday, 07/27, at 1:00 pm. You are also welcome to join us for pizza night at the Milkweed Mercantile, on Thursday evenings from 4 – 8 pm. Check Google Maps for the best directions from your location.