Now THIS is community! (Hexagram 13)

Wilfrid Pelletier, a Native American from an Ojibway community north of Lake Huron, says his people aren't into organization; there's no need for it "because the community is organic." Pelletier gives an illustration of how his unorganized people nevertheless get things done.

"Let's say the council hall in an Indian community needs a new roof ... It's been leaking here and there for quite a while and it's getting worse. And people have been talking about it. Nobody organizes a committee or appoints a project leader."

Nothing happens, in fact, until "one morning there's a guy up on the roof, tearing off the old shingles, and down on the ground there's several bundles of new, hand-split shakes -- probably not enough to do the whole job, but enough to make a good start. Then, after a while, another guy comes along and sees the first guy on the roof. So he comes over and he doesn't say, 'What are you doing up there?' because that's obvious, but he might say, 'How's it's look? Pretty rotten, I guess.' Something like that. Then he takes off, and pretty soon he's back with a hammer or a shingle hatchet and maybe some shingle nails or a couple of rolls of tarpaper. By afternoon, there's a whole crew working on that roof, a pile of materials building up there down the ground, kids taking the old shingles away -- taking them home for kindling -- dogs barking, women bringing cold lemonade and sandwiches. The whole community is involved and there's a lot of fun and laughter. Maybe two or three days that whole job is finished, and they all end up having a big party in the new council hall."

(John Briggs & F. David Peat, Seven Life Lessons of Chaos)

I love this story; it rushes up at me like a wave of friends intent on completing a circle. There is nothing like knowing that no matter who you are, you have a place; you're welcome somewhere. You're drawn into a circle; you find your place within it because there is a place for you within it ... and you do what you do; you give what you can give.

End result? ... Everyone receives.

Then you all sit back, down the lemonade, share in the feast, make some music and give some thanks, concoct the stories and dances that will be told about this day to the next generations, and laugh yourselves long into the night.

(Art: "Building a Wall," by Leland Bell, via


Anonymous said…
That is a great story.
Christine Egger said…
I was just struggling to describe an unvolunteery-volunteer concept to a friend involved in nonprofit work... Thank you for sharing just the right words!

You and your readers might like to know that F David Peat has recently published a book called Gentle Action, full of these kinds of stories. There's a blog at, and I'll be hosting an online conversation with David on My Social Actions, May 7, about the ideas in the book:
Jaliya said…
I was going through some papers last week ... found that story ... It just lit me right up ...

Christine -- So glad you found the right words :-) Isn't it amazing how that happens?

Thanks for the links. I will definitely check them out!

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