Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It's not really about the chairs

I'm teaching my first class in just 48 hours and I'm up to my eyeballs in pre-semester planning, so if you'd looked in my office a few minutes ago you would have thought I was working very intently on projects of great importance. 

Fooled you.

I've been updating the photos on my desktop slideshow. Every five minutes a new photo pops up, so that I might close the file on a frustrating syllabus and suddenly come face-to-face with this:

Or this:

Or this:

And suddenly all that frustration just melts right away, at least for a moment.

Today I ran into a person who's bubbling with rage over the new Adirondack chairs I wrote about yesterday. I suppose I can understand the person's points: the chairs may be vandalized or stolen, and how can we justify spending money on something so frivolous while so many budgets go begging? 

I had a hard time coming up with a persuasive counterargument. It's true that the chairs are not cheap, but the cost is microscopic compared to some of our larger budget challenges. If you took the cost of the chairs and divided that amount among all the employees on campus, those few nickels and dimes wouldn't come close to the value of the pleasure we can get from sitting in the chairs and chatting with colleagues on a lovely autumn afternoon. 

That's probably the hidden Pollyanna in me coming out to play, but I can't help it: I like the chairs, in the same way that I like the little touches of beauty around campus, the flowers blooming in planters and the banners on the light poles. It's the same way I like my grandkids' photos popping up periodically as I move through my work. My grandson's photo can't give me a raise or make my work any easier, but it makes me smile and reminds me that there's a whole big world out there beyond the narrow boundaries of my job. 

It's a breath of fresh air, or a rest in a comfortable chair--an invitation to pause, take a breath, seek a fresh perspective. Who can put a pricetag on that?        

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