-photo by Dylan Baker
WHERE I GREW UP IN THE RURAL MIDWEST, DIY PROJECTS WERE A WAY OF LIFE—ONLY “DO IT YOURSELF” REALLY MEANT “DO IT WITH OTHERS.”
So the summer my dad needed to build a barn, he put out the word. And the people came. My dad, who adopted my siblings and me after my mom divorced my biological father, was an airplane mechanic, retiring after 37 years of service. For 21 of those years, he negotiated agreements as a union leader, accurately predicting the necessity of change if any airline were to survive the inevitable deregulation of the late ’70s. The people who helped my dad build a barn were the same people who had spent endless hours with him sifting through blue- and white-collar perspectives, understanding that both were equally important and needed the other, yet seeing, too, that both were unsure how and perhaps unwilling to move forward together. As airlines fought for a more certain place in an uncertain future, these times were as tense and as divided as political opinions during an election year.
My dad, who was forced to quit school after the seventh grade to help his parents financially, was a master at shifting perceived problems into doable solutions. His patience was unwavering. His timing was precise. His wisdom was beyond my comprehension. And his focus was always on joining together for the betterment of all. I suppose it was these same skills that enabled him to face the challenges that came with adopting a bunch of kids who were in need—like those he represented in the airline industry—of hope for a secure and better future. So when my dad needed help, coworkers and their families arrived from across the country. I watched men of varying demographics, backgrounds, and levels of education pick up tools to piece together a barn, while women prepared food and children freely roamed the rural outdoors, unfamiliar to most of their urban settings. By the end of the day, not only had a barn been raised, but people had been lifted, too.
I witnessed community that summer. Its purpose. Its necessity. Its beauty in rallying around and building up.
(Excerpt from Momentous Living: better self. better world. Buy it on Amazon).