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Modern Amish Barn Raising

The practice of Amish barn raising goes as far back as the 1700s, when communities banded together to help an individual restore his barn after devastation or destruction. The spirit of the activity was imbued with altruism and a genuine desire by the community to see their fellow man persevere during challenging times. While conventional barn raising is less common in the 21st century, the need for community and charitable works still remains. Today, when barn raising events are hosted, they can entail the construction or restoration of any type of farm or domestic-related structure.

Traditional Amish barn raising involved the actual construction or restoration of a horse housing structure. A contemporary twist on the event can call upon a community to help a neighbor build any type of large or complex project on a farm. For example, individuals who don’t belong to the Amish community can host this kind of communal event to create sheds or coops, repair fences, or winterize existing structures. Typically, any large-scale, domestic project can be an appropriate undertaking for a community interested in helping its members.

The advantages of hosting a modern-day barn raising are numerous. The construction of a structure usually requires less time when there are more hands assisting in the endeavor. Resources, such as tools and supplies, can be pooled and shared. Since a community is brought together by the project, and work is completed without the expectation of payment, the structure’s owner can also save money that would have otherwise been paid to professional contractors. More importantly, the construction of a structure by a community offers its members a way to get to know and be of service to one another. New bonds can be formed between neighbors and relationships can be deepened between friends.

Modern-day barn raisings, like those from centuries past, provide ample opportunity for social interaction. Community members, family and friends coming together in solidarity to tackle a large project can provide much-needed moral support for the beneficiary if destruction has claimed a previous structure. Nowadays, however, this same group of people can also be called upon to help construct brand new edifices on a property. This communal effort can lighten the workload of a landowner. It may also take place if a beneficiary doesn’t have all of the tools or resources to construct the structure himself or hire others do it. The event can be a great networking opportunity and provide a platform for associated community issues to be discussed and resolved.

Traditionally, the Amish charged women with the preparation and serving of food to men who worked on the physical construction of a barn. Modern-day mores allow secular men and women to engage in both cooking and building. Some individuals may take part in both activities or simply assign themselves to the activity in which they show the most talent. A contemporary barn raising by non-Amish individuals may feature a potluck-like spread so that workers can enjoy refreshments at their leisure.

These community activities can benefit even children. In traditional Amish communities, children could be expected to run small errands for adults during the event or closely watch their elders as a means of hands-off training. If you decide to host a barn raising event, have kids participate in similar ways. For many families, the raising can be treated as a bonding and learning opportunity. By becoming involved in this collective event, children can learn the importance of community, the concept of selflessness, and the virtue of generosity.

Modern-day barn raisings can be a bit more relaxed than those that took place in past centuries. Two important tasks, however, should always remain at the forefront of this type of event: planning and preparation. Regardless of whether you intend to construct a horse stable or simply restore a fence on your property, the needs of the event’s participants should always be taken into account. Consider how many people will be attending, how much food you should prepare, and the complexity of the task at hand. Schedule the event around others’ free time, develop itineraries and always have a backup plan in case of inclement weather or unforeseen accidents. Take stock of your collective supplies and, when the project is finished, your luck in belonging to a charitable and loving community.

By Alan Bernau Jr

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