Lessons from a Chairmaker
On a whim, Deb and I stopped at a chairmaker. Of all the experiences, this is one that is sticking with me, it is one I will take home and remember over the years. I find this almost laughable. On the surface, there is nothing extraordinary about the chairmaker visit. We drove into a hidden driveway, one we had to turn around and go back for because we passed it before we realized it was there the first time.
The lane was muddy, puddled, soupy. We picked our steps up a browned-grass, sludged-mud path to the workshop door. A sign hung on the door warning us to be careful because the handle is loose. We stepped into the workshop. It is just as you are picturing a chairmaker workshop to be…there is nothing remarkable. A light layer of sawdust coats the workbenches and tools and finished pieces of furniture.
“Welcome,” we are greeted by an ordinary man holding sandpaper. I’m sure just as you are picturing him is accurate because he looks just like the woodworkers in picture books. We smile tentatively. Breathe in the smell of wood dust. Look around and the details begin to surface. The hand carved spindles, the smooth chair seat, fashioned in contours, and the knob details all become exquisite in their simplicity.
Then he speaks more, telling of the process, sharing his work, talking about lumber. Something magical happens. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. The drab becomes remarkable. His quiet passion for his work takes over pulling me into his world. He offers us a piece of homemade sea glass candy. I put the jagged blue piece on my tongue and he encourages us to look around, take our time, and then cross the drive to the show room. “It’s best to begin here,” he said, “Because this is where it all begins.”
He is right. However, it doesn’t begin with the boards or the saws or the sandpaper. It begins in the heart of the chairmaker. His passion for the craft. His attention to detail stemming from the pride he takes in a job well done. I recognized this in him within moments of stepping into the shop. He turned the ordinary into spectacular and he made me see things differently.
Classrooms are another ordinary place, seemingly unremarkable. Yet, when teachers are passionate about children and learning, when we take pride in our work, the ordinary becomes spectacular. It only takes moments for passion to pull outsiders in to the magic, turning the ordinary into something rather remarkable. I left the chairmaker’s workshop wondering if my passion is as alive as his. Do I transform the ordinary into something extraordinary each day? Do people see things differently because of me?
May today be the day we let our passion for helping kids learn and grow and write and read take over and change things for the better.