Thursday, July 26, 2012

Building a cathedral

I'm not sure where I heard this story, probably at a teacher inservice at some point, but it has stuck with me especially as I have been on my quest for a purpose.  In case you haven't heard it before, here's my best rendition.
A traveler came upon three men working on a hill, each of them smashing rocks with a hammer.  He approached the first man and said, "what are you doing?" 
"What does it look like?" said the first man, "I'm smashing rocks."
The traveler then approached the second worker and asked the same question.
"I'm working to earn a living for my family, so we can afford to have a better life."
The third man, when asked the same question, lit up with a smile.  "Can't you see?  I'm building a cathedral."
It's a little preachy, I know. I'm inclined to learn best through parables and narratives, so I'm not surprised it stuck with me.  But today it seems to be sticking in my brain a little extra.

So many days of this mom gig, I feel like I'm just smashing rocks.  It's discouraging.  It's disheartening.  I want to do something big, something that matters.  And the truth is, I feel this way even though I know that by raising a child I am doing some of the most worthwhile work in the world, that I am doing something at least as meaningful as building a cathedral.

I'm not going to "should" myself and say that I need to think like that third man all the time, that I need to see the big picture and take pride in my achievements.  Because sometimes I can't.  Sometimes that's just not where I am, and smashing the rocks is the best I can do to get through the day.  And that's okay.

But I also know that everyone needs to feel, at least once in a while, like they're building something that matters.

Some dear friends of mine are stepping out of their comfort zones today, and they're doing it because their families need them to.  They're doing it without any expectation of being able to find purpose or meaning in it.  They're doing it simply because they must, however much they really don't wanna, they're going out to smash rocks and they're doing it to make sure their families have better lives.

And I think that's amazing.  I think that's more than enough.

But I hope that somewhere along the line, they can find cathedrals.


  1. I think that I enjoy my current position so much because I can see my purpose so clearly. I work in Quality for a healthcare company, and my purpose is to help save patient's lives. My decisions help make our products safer and more effective.

    Some days I lose sight of that purpose, and I feel like I am smashing rocks. This is especially true for me with parenting my little girls. I forget that I am trying to mold them into the women they will become.

  2. That's why I want to get back to teaching. Maybe I'm thinking I can only provide for my family as a mom but can achieve greatness as a teacher?

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