Sunday, April 18, 2010

Donna and Dan - 8

Trabues in the Smokies
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Another post in the countdown to Dan and Donna's 25th anniversary this coming June, which I began back in December. It is my plan to post a story, remembrance and/or poem once a week for 25 weeks leading to the big date.

I was still with the band and still had a couple of fellas in it who were interested in living in community. With the purchase of our house, we began talking more earnestly about how that might work.

My bandmate, Ed, in particular, was interested in moving into Christian community with us. He was preparing to get married himself, and they thought they might want to live on their own, at least at first, but the idea was planted that they'd eventually join us on West Main St.

The house we moved into was, to put it kindly, a fixer-upper. There were actually two houses on one lot, a 100 year old, two story brick house in front and a shotgun house behind. Our plan was to move into the main brick house and live there whilst we restored it, then restore the shotgun house afterwards. (To give an indication of what sort of shape the houses were in, we purchased both houses for a grand total of $17,000, which I'm guessing is less than the average American spends on a new car!)

In the ensuing years, while waiting to begin living in intentional community with Ed and his wife, we began living in unintentional community with a variety of people.

First, a single mother we met through Baptist Tabernacle moved in with her three children. Not long after, a young man we knew from the Seminary and Tabernacle moved in with us. Not so long after that, and with Ed still thinking about coming, he sent us another single mother and her son to move in with us.

That came to about nine people (oh, and a dog!), all in a ~2200 square foot house that was in the middle of being renovated. We began calling our unintentional community, Bedlam House, for good reason.

Eventually, we began work on the shotgun house in back and Ed and Karla moved in with us. Some of the children came and went (living for a time with their father or elsewhere) but it seems like at one point, we were up to eleven people living in the one house - with the plan that some would move out to the shotgun house as soon as it was done.

Being earnest young Christians, we tried to organize a "spiritual" community, with regular Bible study and prayer times, with mixed results. Our model in all of this was just those few verses in the book of Acts, that describes the early church as living together "having all things in common," but without any real details of what that looked like.

I/we were mostly ignorant of the many modern examples we could have investigated for some more helpful structure - the Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, for instance, or other more modern communes. So, while we held a boatload of enthusiasm and good intentions, we lacked much in the way of practical ideas. Eventually, things unraveled. Not spectacularly, but slowly and surely.

Ed and Karla left and, about that same time, Donna and I began making plans for our own family and were (hopefully politely) encouraging others to begin moving out.

Soon child number one was on the way and we were back down to our original single mom and two of her kids...


John said...

Even though it didn't work, I congratulate you for trying to live according to your principles.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, John. I would note that "working" is relative. Did Bedlam House "work?"

Well, it helped keep two single moms and their children safe and housed for a few years. It helped us know what does and doesn't work for us. It gave us a community of friends that continues. It helped us renovate the house and gave us co-workers in our house and with our children (and us, with their children).

In many positive and wonderful ways, it worked. Just not as something we wanted to continue doing indefinitely.

John said...

Good point! I feel into a utopianist trap. Bedlam House may not have created a perfect world, but if it made life better for a few people than they would have had without it, then it was a success.

One of the bad mental habits that Harry Browne pointed out in his writings is that people sometimes see perfect happiness or freedom as impossible, and therefore do not strive for the quite possible incrementally better life. I've been trying to think in those terms lately.