The importance of paying it forward

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PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
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Posts: 680
The importance of paying it forward

When it comes to community building, I've found from my own recent experiences that, while paying people back is important, it's even more important to pay it forward.

Here's my real-life experience and observation out in remote Alaska (we're at the end of the road with the nearest big city 4 hours away):

Some background: There are three factions in this area (four if you count the tribal council separately). You have Manley and Minto which are real incorporated "villages" - population less than 100. Then you have this weird no-man's-land area between them that everyone just calls Eureka (even though Eureka was just an old mining claim, never officially incorporated, and the long-ago hub is a total ghost town). Manley is primarily Caucasian, Minto is primarily Tribal, and Eureka is completely a mixed bag. Most people in Manley and Minto were born there (at least second generation) or have lived there for a long while... usually married in or moved out for work when times were better. Most of the Eurekans are "escapees" starting completely from scratch.

The rub: With the exception of a few good souls, most of the people in the villages have a sort of adversarial view of the other village and all the crazy Eurekans. It's almost as if they secretly hope all us "Cheechakos" (newbies) will fail out here in the bush. They don't hesitate to tell you that what you want to do won't work, but they won't tell you what will work or help you make it work. They also tend to withhold information... testing to see if you'll figure stuff out before you die out here. You've got to earn (well, PAY FOR in most cases) any meager respect they'll give you.

In contrast, the Eurekans are more than willing to lend you a hand, invite you over for a meal that didn't come out of a can, let you take a hot shower with real running water, show you the ropes, tell you where the best fish are running, etc etc. They respect your willingness to go it without a safety net, and realize that we're all going to need one another at some point or other out here in the boonies. They remember what it was like when they first started clearing trail and setting up the 'Stead, and how grateful they were for those that came before giving them a hand up when they needed it.

Take our firewood situation, for instance. We got up here a little late in the season, so didn't get a chance to put up quite as much as we'd like to have. There is plenty (loads and loads) of dry-dead-standing trees all around us so we've been able to go out a couple of times a week, cut a bunch down and haul it back to buck and split for the rest of the week. That was working really good right up until the temps got down to -40 and the chainsaws started freezing up. So, we decided that it would be best to purchase a few cords of seasoned (possibly split) firewood from someone local to take the pressure off our wood foraging so we can get other projects done. In town, the main supplier wants $300 a cord for unsplit, unbucked, 2 year logs and he doesn't deliver or negotiate. Our Eureka neighbor who has a big woodlot offered us firewood when we were just talking about it at Thanksgiving dinner... he wasn't even thinking about charging us. We turned around and offered him $250 a cord since it's really seasoned hard & soft woods that's bucked and split and he's going to deliver it.... seemed fair to us. We get to stay warm and do something besides wood collection, and he gets some cash right before Christmas to do stuff with his grandkids. Now, on top of that, he's got some construction projects he's going to help another neighbor with this spring and we offered to lend him a hand since it's stuff we've done before... and he turned around and said he'd be more than happy to lend us a hand (and get some buddies to pitch in) when we get around to wall-raising at our place.

See? We're all paying it forward and paying it back, all at the same... and it all ends up working as long as you're not a dick.  (Pardon the French). No one thinks first about what they're going to GET out of the deal before they offer to help their neighbor. We're all pretty individual isolationists up here, not all "communal" by any means, but we look out for each other from our own little corners. That's what a real working community should look like.

Pay it forward - the life you save may one day be your own!!

Gungnir's picture
Gungnir
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Re: The importance of paying it forward

I'd also like to say there are those on here paying it forward too, like Jim (JPitre) who fed and put us up for the night after our experience at the Canadian border. He didn't need to, but did anyway.I thought that deserved a mention...

SagerXX's picture
SagerXX
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Joined: Feb 11 2009
Posts: 2236
Re: The importance of paying it forward

Concur w/Gungnir/Plickety (what a surprise! Smile).  As the old saying goes "It's amazing what you can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit."  A corollary to that applies to the stories G&P tell -- it's amazing how people can help each other out (and thereby at some point help themselves) when the first thought isn't "What's in it for *me*?"...

We had an awesome Second Thanksgiving at our place last night for friends -- about 22 people incl. the wife & myself.  Wife baked a turkle, I made mashed taters (to honor my Irish ancestors Wink) and the rest was potluck.  About 3 years ago, a dinner like this w/friends would've ended up being the wife, me, and 1 other person we knew up here.  But by taking initiative, spending money & time on an open-ended basis, and doing it without thinking about what we'd get (other than a network of good people), we're now rolling in community.  

It's all come home most sweetly and clearly in the last couple weeks as we prep for my wife to get a hip replacement (!) on Tuesday.  We are literally tripping over people who want to help.  Food, dog-walking, driving the wife to PT (so I can focus on keeping our businesses running), trips to the store/DVD rental shop, etc.  (Somebody is even going to come and clean the bathrooms [!] for us in a week or so...)  

So all our Give has now come back around full circle to Receive.  We feel absolutely CAPITAL (in the ol'skool sense of the word).

Pay it forward indeedy!  

VIVA -- Sager

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: The importance of paying it forward

I'm astounded that more people of that mindset don't realize that "what's in it for *them*" when they help out their neighbors is having someone else around who can look out for them and augment their own skills. Heck, just having one redundant resource is a major boon in the backwoods... not to mention extra hands for big projects.

Even the most self-sufficient of us will eventually need assistance or get into trouble. If you've been a greedy weenie the whole time, even normally generous people are much less likely to help you out.

Instant Karma, Dude!

Paying it forward is also a great way to teach newcomers what's expected in your little neck of the woods. That certainly helps keep the riff-raff out and keep the cooperative ball rolling.

jpitre's picture
jpitre
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 3 2009
Posts: 366
Re: The importance of paying it forward

Strikes me that it is about time to get rid of the Wall Street thieves and build our own communities based on paying it forward, paying it back and living a life authentically.

Slightly off point, but certainly part of community, Aaron Moyer commented on a different thread "If you don't like how people are behaving, find a way to approach the problem that works towards a solution. Volunteer to help..... Be the type of person who's respected and emulated, and others will follow your standard! "

Here's to Eureka and many more like it - besides, I like the idea of an old mining claim coming back to life with resilience and sustainablilty

Jim

 

ckessel's picture
ckessel
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Joined: Nov 12 2008
Posts: 479
Re: The importance of paying it forward
jpitre wrote:

Strikes me that it is about time to get rid of the Wall Street thieves and build our own communities based on paying it forward, paying it back and living a life authentically.

Slightly off point, but certainly part of community, Aaron Moyer commented on a different thread "If you don't like how people are behaving, find a way to approach the problem that works towards a solution. Volunteer to help..... Be the type of person who's respected and emulated, and others will follow your standard! "

Here's to Eureka and many more like it - besides, I like the idea of an old mining claim coming back to life with resilience and sustainablilty

Jim

Great thread and stories!  Looks like the new gold has been discovered in Eureka.

Coop

 

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: The importance of paying it forward

For all of it's disdain for us, Manley has been talking about trying to incorporate us (to get more money from the state I guess).  Most of us are seriously considering re-incorporating and reviving Eureka if that happens. How many cooperative communities dream of actually being their very own legit little township?!

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