Belenen (belenen) wrote,
Belenen
belenen

Barn-raising

When I was a kid I read a lot of "frontier" fiction about white people in North America in the early 1900's, and the concept of "barn raising" -- the community coming together to help one person or one family -- always appealed to me but also seemed like a thing that only existed for other people. My best friend's family had this but only between siblings - not extended family and certainly not neighbors. And all other families I knew were like mine: every person for themself.

My family has never considered my life a thing that they would like to invest in. My parents always gave the bare minimum (and that begrudgingly), and my aunts and cousins who lived near me couldn't even be bothered to go to my graduation party, much less try to help me in any way.

My family didn't want to invest in me even when I was doing things that they considered good, worthy endeavors. As a kid I wanted to go to church mid-week (and that was all I asked for -- I didn't ask to go to the movies or shopping etc) but they didn't want to put that effort in, so I didn't get to do it.

As an adult when I went back to college to get my degree, they did not want to help me financially even when they were very wealthy and I was often going hungry. They have always been so reluctant to put forth effort on my behalf that it never would even have occurred to me to ask them for help moving, or to ask them to pick me up from the side of the road if my car broke down.

When I met my partner's family and realized that they considered it a shared value to help out when someone needed physical assistance, I was taken aback. I was skeptical that this would extend to my partner, because all I saw was my partner helping others physically and emotionally without receiving any financial help, which they needed at the time. I expected that when my partner needed physical help, their family would find some excuse to say no, because that was what my family would have done.

But when my partner moved three times in two years, both parents, both siblings, a cousin, and all of their age-appropriate sib-kids helped and seemed happy to do it. And when I moved, I was expecting to have to do it myself with just my partner's help, but both of my partner's parents helped -- not just with lending their truck and trailer, but with loading and unloading.

And then my partner's parent and sibling and sib-kids helped my partner with all the repairs that needed to be made to the house we bought last summer -- fixing the roof and demolishing the rotted back deck. Then my partner's parent helped my partner insulate the attic, fix the grading around the house to prevent moisture in the basement, install new kitchen counters and a new dishwasher, and a bunch of other things I can't think of at the moment. They helped us do things that had no benefit to them, just because they had the time and expertise or physical capability.

This was normal to my partner who had seen their parents and family do things like this all their life, but it was shocking to me. "Many hands make light work" was something I never experienced. Experiencing this made me realize that I want to be that with and for my community.

My community is trans and nonbinary people. Most of us have shitty families who would never be there for us. Most of us have no one or very few people to reach out to for help when we need physical support like with moving or picking us up from a car break-down or from a surgical procedure. "Barn raising" becomes an almost insurmountably difficult task when you're trying to do it alone.

I want to change this so I'm changing my attitude: if I can help someone in my community move, I will; if I can pick someone up when they need it, I will. I want to be this and I hope that more people make this same decision so that we can be for each other that support that our families never were.
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