All Volunteer

Think of the task you hate most in your life- maybe it’s cooking, maybe it’s cleaning the toilet, maybe it’s dealing with customers, maybe it’s calling your supplies to figure out why the latest shipment of widgets hasn’t arrive yet.  Now imagine that you never have to do this task again- someone else will do it (possibly after you train them), and you can relax in a hammock instead.  The work still gets done, your job is secure, you get paid the same amount, but you are likely much happier!  Not only that, but your co-workers and family actively encourage you to give up these jobs and tasks you hate.  Sounds impossible, right?  Not really- this is what it’s like to live and work at Twin Oaks.

If you have not been here it’s difficult to imagine; the whole place is run on volunteers.  There are literally hundreds of jobs (there are over 100 managerships) here and every one is filled by someone who has in essence said “of all the many things to do here i prefer this one”.  This is quite liberating, and because there are so many jobs to do most members spread their work among several areas .  My work typical 42 hour work week might consist of 7 hours of home school and caring for my son (i do more, but this is what i take credit for), 12 hours of marketing and managing for our hammocks business, 4 hours of making Tofu, 5 hours of giving tours of doing speaking gigs about Twin Oaks, 2 hours of cleaning my house or dishes, 3 hours of labor creditable activism and 9 hours of running errands for the community (room assigning, tofu delivery, Outside Work management and more). But the key is if i did not like this mix, i could change it.

I think it is this freedom which makes it worthwhile for most of the people who live here.  You have to give up a number of things to be here as contrasted with a middle class lifestyle, specifically the things which are connected to having flexible personal income, hopping in the car and going for a joy ride, eating out regularly, going to the spa.  On the other hand, members here are guaranteed a comfortable place to live, healthy food, full health-care coverage, work they enjoy, and the right to live here as long as they are willing to live within our community’s agreements.

In the world of trade offs I am convinced that i am better off than my peers from my hometown.  I get to see my son several times almost everyday.  I eat food which grows right here.  I don’t worry about bills, or rent, or bankruptcy, or losing my job.  I am at a fraction the carbon footprint of most US Americans.  I am loved, respected, and have interesting work.  If I lose interest in that work, a plethora of other jobs are available and someone will train me.

And if you doubt your own ability or willingness to live in community, I encourage you at ask yourself, “What could my life be like if I could give up all the jobs and tasks I hate tomorrow?”  It’s not a rhetorical question, this life is possible and thousands of people across the world are living it.  Why aren’t you?