I often wonder what the next “reality show” on television will be. Whether it’s “Texas Flippers” or the latest tiny house being built, the networks seem to be birthing new iterations of demolition and rebuilding every day. In contrast to the seeming lack of desire to save anything in a house that might be “repurposed: – e.g. kitchen cabinets that might be “dated” but still in good shape – there is one, albeit very different, show that was playing when I walked into the living room yesterday. I think it’s called “Barn Builders.”
The team of a half-dozen strong, bearded, Southern-speaking, friendly workers is led by a man named Mark, whose reverence for history is impossible to miss. There’s lots to learn from this show about how barns were built long ago, what woods and other materials were used and why anyone would be interested in them today. Each episode features either the careful deconstruction of a barn whose wood is to be repurposed or the renovation of a structure to its faded glory of long ago. Often the team uses the implements of the era when renovating – like the flat axe I saw yesterday. Time and energy ran out on that one though, as they were working on a 40-foot tree that was to become a strengthening beam in the renewed structure of an 1839 tavern. The chain saw came out and did the job in record time. All involved were not only grateful for time and effort saved but amazed at the creativity that has brought us so much progress over the last two centuries. Most important was the esteem for early farmers who had worked so hard to build their homes and their lives.
There were two prompts for the above reflection. First, what may seem a stretch but is really true, was the last line of this morning’s gospel after Jesus had cured a paralyzed man. They said, “We have seen incredible things today.” (LK 5:26) Secondly, there is the reverence for history that is evident not only in the actual project of the Barn Builders episode but also in the vignettes sprinkled throughout the hour where Mark tours other properties or gives brief lessons about historical building processes. The premise of this show truly does remind me that we continue to see incredible progress but also that we need to remember our history that is so rich in seemingly simple ways.