Roger Barbee: It is always better to give than to receive

Roger Barbee

Roger Barbee

When we use the word “community” most of us think in terms of its primary meaning: a group of people living close to one another, and that is a good understanding of the word and its concept. So, I live in the community of Bowman’s Crossing. However, as we all understand, our lives are like the ripples on a water’s surface — they begin within a small circle, but expand outward. Thus, our individual communities will vary.

For the past few weeks, I have been watching the construction of a new building just north of Edinburg on The Pike. As I have watched, I recall reading about “barn raisings” and seeing photographs of dozens of men standing on the ribs of a large barn and below them under shade trees, the women preparing a large meal on long tables for all to enjoy. That is the scene I recall when I think of community. And, I admit to thinking of it as a lost relic of times gone by — when folks living in isolated communities came together to help one another. After all, we are much too modern and sophisticated with our technical knowledge and our machines to need each other in that way. But this week I learned a new lesson about community.

Some weeks ago I noticed the heavy construction equipment in the paved lot of the Kingdom Hall north of Edinburg. Curious, I made inquiries and discovered that the building was being demolished because it was deemed less expensive to build a new one than repair the present one, which was built in 1992. As usual in such an endeavor, machines, workers, and materials moved about the lot, and I was able to watch as the large slab was poured. Then, late last week, the site took on an amazing atmosphere.

Driving through Edinburg this past Saturday, I noticed the large number of vehicles parked at the Old Mill. Moving on north, I saw that the previously deserted lot at Irving Wholesalers was also jammed with vehicles of all description. Next, I noticed a sign that read something about a shuttle. My, I thought, something big must be going on, and then I saw the large crowd and tent and portable kitchen at the Kingdom Hall site.

The new Kingdom Hall is being constructed by upward of 500 members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Monetary contributions have come from around the world, and the trades people, from as far away as Roanoke and Danville, come here each Thursday to construct this 4,800-square-foot building, which will be completed in two weeks thanks to the shared labor of the members.

Gus, the construction overseer, is from Martinsville, Virginia, and with the help of an overseer for each trade, the work is done well and efficiently. Jim, who lives in Woodstock, heads the masonry team, and 10 of his masons are female.

Local families host the visiting workers and, as Jim said, it is a good time to meet new people or get re-acquainted with old friends. The large, portable kitchen provides three meals each day, and every day begins with a Bible lesson and prayer.

In the church community, a member is placed on a team to be trained in a trade he or she would like to learn. Gus observed that many of his best workers on this and other projects are female.

It is unlike any construction site I have ever been involved in or observed — it flows and no ugly words are uttered. Tradespeople who do not belong to the church but are employed for their skill in a particular trade are always surprised by the harmony.

As I talked with Gus and Jim about the work, they did not even complain about the recent cold and wet weather, and they both complimented the county for its cooperation. Jim told me how the church has a presence in over 235 countries and the monies for this Kingdom Hall came from all of them. In each Kingdom Hall is a container for donations for such building projects all over the world and here in the valley. To learn more about how this works go to: or www.jw-broadcasting.

When I left the cold and soggy construction site, I felt a warmth. Here, on The Pike, in the valley, a small Kingdom Hall of about 200 members has a new building because of the generosity of like-minded folks from all over the world. As I drove past the now empty lot of Paynes, I thought that soon it will be jammed with vehicles of good people giving of their time and skill to help someone they may not even know, but who belongs to their community. They live the words of Luke, the great physician, “It is better to give than to receive.”

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at

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