Why is it so hard to ask for help? Straw Bale workshop at Two Poles

Yesterday was crazy.  We were slated to offer a small mini straw bale project through the Sustainable Monday’s program (each week an interesting new topic at the Rail River Folk School).  I wanted the place to look nice in case some people came to help us build a little woodshed, so Milt and I worked most of the day mowing, putting up a large canopy, clearing stuff, getting the tools out and ready.  The first to arrive was brother Rick with a trailer holding ten bales.  It was cool to see new bales arrive on the property—shades of things to come with wanting our new addition built this summer.  Next came my niece Rochelle and her friend Ben to help set up.  I put them to work putting down a first layer of earth bags on my newly leveled wall area. 

Then the crazy part.  At close to 6:00 cars started pulling in—a lot of cars.  I stood at the doorway and watched them ease onto the land looking for places to park.  I didn’t count, but I think there were over twenty people who showed up to get “down and dirty” with building a wall and mudding it in.  We gave a quick tour of the house—it is only one large room so that was fast, and then we put them to work.  We had clay screeners, bag filling, bag pounding and placing, and much fun chaos.  Milt showed them how to mix a load of mud with the screened clay.  We had approximately one hour.  Bags down, bales on (all four of them with one split in two for demonstration purposes), and then the mud.  Unfortunately, I think the bales we bought had been overexposed to the weather and the clay literally would not stick—oh well, we added water, a bit of clay, and still had a lot of fun trying to get the stuff to stay on the bales.  I’ll add pictures as soon as I get them–they’re great!

I think back to our first summer of building.  I had filled dozens of bags sitting alone with a small shovel in the hot sun awaking each morning with my right hand burning and numb from over use.   We had a lot of help, but there were a lot of bags to fill. 

I didn’t know very many of those people who came, but when they left I felt like we had some new friends who love doing what we love doing.  It was quite amazing.  Milt and I were excited and high from the experience last night.  We love doing things with a community of like-minded folks.  I compare this experience to my lonely efforts week after week to build and mud and I realize again how important it is to find community and then ask for help when we need it.

Just a few generations ago our grandparents and great grandparents knew more about the value of community.  You were never alone when there was a difficult task to do.  People did barn raisings and harvesting or big hunts to feed a whole village.  Wow, how did we get from there to here?  I hear so much about the isolation of our society, but was really aware last night that it doesn’t have to be so.

What is it about our society that makes it so difficult to ask for help?  I know I have some old guilt that I should be able to do it all alone, shouldn’t need to reach out and ask.  This could be an old guilt that I need to release.  I like to help people.  I wish they would ask more.  I would do more for others if they only asked.  I want to ask for more help.  It doesn’t have to be an economic exchange—it could be a social or community exchange. 

 Maybe somebody needs to build a Facebook or Craig’s list for people looking for willing helpers on a difficult project.  That would be cool.  I wonder if anybody would use it?  Just a thought.

 Tomorrow we are off to Grand Marais up along northern edge of Lake Superior.  We are doing the second part of a production training for the radio station up there.  The people are great and it is so beautiful—I’m excited to go work with talented and creative people for a couple of days.  More community!

As always, a reminder to sign up with an email address below to get my regular weekly post and/or forward this to a friend.   PS—Our gardens are in, the flowers planted, and I am exhausted but growing stronger each day physically.



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Why is it so hard to ask for help? Straw Bale workshop at Two Poles — 10 Comments

  1. Words well spoken (written) Jamie. As a participant in the event listed above, I too was overwhelmed with the people who came out; the different ages, genders, cultures all eager, willing workers. It was a cold and rainy day. A day where most people say I just want to stay indoors. What is it about learning to build a straw bale house that drew the people to Cass Lake? Perhaps the Folk School is generating a good energy for community building around a concern for our environment. I believe the school is working to re-introduce us to our roots of being close to the land and our natural environments. Thank you Milt and Jamie for doing the work that it takes to bring people together. Thank you for being willing to share your passion of living close to the earth. Thanks to Brett and Semone for generating the interest through the Folk School. I feel very fortunate to know people like all of you.

    • Maggie–you need to start a blog–I can help 🙂 I always love your comments and the writing is so beautiful and thoughtful. How about it? I help you–you help me–community grows.

  2. Thanks Maggie for coming!
    It was exhilaration to the max! So much fun. Getting people to get their hands in the mud – how cool is that, and funny. People looked at me like – “but it’s mud!” But of course as soon as they put their hands in, they would get this big smile – like – I remember this! This is a blast.

    It was pretty great alright. Can’t wait to do it again.

  3. “What is it about our society that makes it so difficult to ask for help?” I ask myself that question all the time! I believe that whatever is at the root of it, it is contributing to the downfall of our society. It destroys our ability to be vulnerable, it weakens our connection to each other. We need to get over it!

    • Thanks Laura. So much for “independence”. I think I am personally going to look for ways to help others accomplish thier dreams and ask for more help accomplishing mine. I’d love to hear what your vision is. Nice to hear from you.

  4. What makes me not want to ask for help, is that if you help me, then it is my responsibility to pay you back equally or more. Geee that is a new awareness for me and it seems rather silly but true. I will embrace it as a hidden truth just discovered and deside to change my truth to something new.

    I like the “Pay it forward ” truth. I will ask for help and then give help when needed to whomever needs it. I think I will help sometimes without being asked. Yes! I like this new truth.

    Thanks for the thought stirring blog.

    • Hi Renee,

      You know Hellinger talked at length about the balance of give and take. It is a good thing, actually. I loved how he talked about the secret to the successful relationship is that when you do something nice for me, I am compelled to do equal–plus a tiny bit more. Not a lot–just a little. This way the relationship grows in an upward spiral with each person trying to figure out how to add just that tiny bit of extra. I would love to hear more from us good Catholic girls and how we feel about what we should give–and take. I have trouble taking (the same as asking for help). Thanks for checking in. And btw, the straw bale thing was so much fun. Wish you would come out again!

  5. Hi, Jamie,
    We are going to be part of a giant block party for Dayton this summer on July 28 at Welcome Park in Dayton. There will be free food, music, hair cuts, medical screenings, clothing, kid’s games, etc.
    I am excited about bringing our community together for this event. We think there may 10,000 people at the event. Hurray for community!

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