Most of us are born with hearts that yearn for meaning. We want our lives to count for something, and we hope that our daily work will provide us with a life, as well as a living. The classic story of three stonecutters helps us see that the true impact of our work goes far beyond the day-to-day tasks that consume so much of our time and energy.
A traveler came across three stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was chipping away at separate blocks of stone. Curious, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing.
“What? Are you blind?” the stonecutter shouted. “Can’t you see I’m cutting this stupid piece of stone?”
The man walked to the second stonecutter, who seemed a little happier, and asked him the same question. The stonecutter replied, “I’m cutting this block of stone so that the mason can build a straight wall.”
Finally, he approached the third stonecutter, who seemed to be the happiest of the three, and asked him what he was doing. “I’m building a cathedral,” he replied with a smile.
Like the third stonecutter, knowing that the work we do as teachers can make a positive impact on a child’s life—and sometimes, through that child, an impact on the world writ large—makes our personal sacrifices and toil worthwhile. As educators, we have the opportunity to build cathedrals of knowledge and opportunity, not merely chip away at stones.
If we’re going to fulfill our larger purpose and calling then we must consider embarking on a lifelong learning journey. Our calling asks that we walk a road less travelled, a hero's journey—a path of self-reflection, self-awareness, and practice. For it’s our inner life, reflected in our personal attributes and our classroom presence, that will ultimately motivate and inspire our students to succeed academically and to fulfill their own larger purpose and life-calling.
Whether you’re an elementary school teacher surrounded by bright student-artwork, and this morning you passed a line of smiling, wriggling, lovely first graders who greeted you with a dozen chirpy “Good mornings!” (and perhaps a hug or two)…or you teach at a middle school or high school where the sounds of the school band practicing echoes in the halls and mixes with the smells of food being prepared in the cafeteria…or you hear the laughter of students discussing a scene in Hamlet and at the bell you see the crush of students cramming the halls and filling them with joyful noise and unrestrained energy… no matter where your school building is located, and no matter its physical condition, it’s good to remember you are blessed, for you are in no ordinary workplace...and this is no ordinary calling.