At a meeting tonight about the future of my daughter’s little elementary school, a parent spoke about the importance of the schoolhouse, built a hundred years ago, by the town of Woodbury, Vermont. Until I went to a tiny college (also in Vermont), I never attended school in a building that had not only beauty in spades but also soul. The Woodbury schoolhouse has both.
This afternoon, a little thirdgrader showed me the dirt on her clothes from working in the garden. The children had been digging potatoes, and she showed me with her hands the size of the largest potatoes. Sometimes, she told me, my fingers got stuck around the potatoes and they were hard to pull out. She laughed, and I could see a sprinkling of dirt over her cheeks.
Too much of our world now is placeless – grab your i-phone and laptop and head out for new territory, but where we live and work matters; it matters who builds our homes and schools; it matters who opens the door to your child’s schoolhouse each morning. And on a sunny and windy October afternoon, it matters that someone shows a child to bury her hands to the wrists in black soil and extract an apple of the earth.
For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.
–– Viktor Frankl