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Dancing Rabbit, March 15, 2020

What can I say about a week in which the highlight was spending two hours scrubbing walls?

It’s been a tough one for sure — strange and lacking answers in so many ways — but not without its wonderful moments.

Christina here, writing from our corner of Northeast Missouri during one of the weirdest weeks of the year.

As for many of you, I’m sure, the end of last week was very different from the beginning of the week. I started off on Sunday with the full array of Dancing Rabbit Sunday events: I participated in my monthly clean team shift and worked diligently to organize the kids room, clean the bathroom sinks, and sort the recycling; I attended the WIP (Week in Preview) meeting and planned ride shares, meetings, and group meals for the week; I went to the Village Council meeting and contributed my thoughts about how best to hold to our agreements as a village. 

But the rest of the week did not follow the usual routines and expectations. With some challenging things going on here in the village, interpersonal dynamics, and the craziness that is our world right now, my week definitely didn’t go as planned. I wake up in the morning feeling uncertain, a little scared, and not really sure about what I should do next.

So that’s why the best part of my week was spent scrubbing some walls. 

During the first week in March, a friend and neighbor was injured while working, so he was unable to complete a project at home that he had been planning on doing this past week. He was going to completely clean a basement workshop including taking everything out of the room, vacuuming and scrubbing the cement walls, and taking down a wall in the middle of the space. With his injury, he couldn’t do any of this work, so his partner arranged what we call a “work party,” and the job got done in an afternoon.

This was not fun work in the least — we were indoors on a beautiful day dealing with dust and cobwebs and buckets of cleaner — but it was also the best time of my week. 

Work parties are wonderful for a few reasons, and they are something that I never really experienced before I moved here.

For one, a work party really is a party. I get to chat with friends, we make jokes and sing songs sometimes. I brought my son Max along since he loves cleaning (I know, right?) and it was super fun to watch him use the giant vacuum, tear down a wall, and learn how to use some new tools.

Another reason why work parties are so magical for me is that they seem to be more than the sum of their parts. I calculated that there were seven or eight people helping to complete the project this week. Besides the prep work and planning that went into it, we spent a total of two hours working. This means that we completed about fourteen hours of work. And yet, if one person had been working alone on that project, it definitely would have taken over twenty hours, if not more. And of course, those would have been twenty boring, frustrating, and tedious hours as well. While I was working on my small task, friends in other areas were working on theirs, and every time I paused to look around I noticed huge improvements.

Probably my favorite thing about work parties is that I feel like I’m making a difference in some way. I’ve definitely felt a little useless and aimless this week — not sure how I can help or what I can do to lessen the pain of others in my life — but when I was given a scrub brush and some cleaning solution, I knew what I should do. For those two hours, I was focused and I worked really hard, and I know that I helped to improve some friends’ lives because of that hard work. 

I’ve had plenty of other opportunities to help friends this week, and so I’ve been thinking about community and how we can lean on one another in ways that I just didn’t see in the outside world. From running errands for each other to trading childcare to listening to people talk about what they’re going through, we are available for one another quite a bit around here.

I’ve done my share of asking for help as well, so it feels pretty great to help out friends who have been so supportive and valuable to me in the past. 

In the end, it just feels good to help someone else. I spent all day on Wednesday hoping that the work party would be canceled. I had so many excuses for why it wouldn’t work: my day was too busy, we had a new puppy, I was solo parenting for most of the day. But I ended up enjoying the work and just feeling great afterwards. 

When my friends ask me for help, it is a real gift to me. I know that they trust me and feel comfortable making themselves vulnerable and I get to feel useful for a while. I just wish that everything were as easy to fix as that dirty wall.