A Good View and a Pile of Rocks

By Caroline Painter

As I write this, I think it is important for you to understand where I am. As I place each stroke of pen ink onto the surface of the page I’m sitting on white rocks that were hand stacked to form a wall to support a mountain path. I’m on the edge looking out toward snow topped mountains. I’m surrounded by green trees and yellow mustard flowers. There is a breeze coming through the valley. I am watching a bird with a 9 foot wingspan effortlessly glide in the thermals, its shadow crossing my page and onto the ground. Looking out at the mountain landscape I feel breathless.

This place makes me feel so small and powerful. Looking up from my journal, it feels like the towering mountains are about to hug me. I don’t feel suffocated, I feel embraced and set free.

I have always wanted to understand community. Leadership, support, and acceptance have played a powerful role in every society I have come across. The same values are everywhere in Agora. The world is full of differences but we humans rely on these key strengths.

As I was hiking, I knew where I was but had to keep looking down to check foot placement on the small path. The details of the rocks slowly brought me back home. I had to look up to remind myself of my location on this earth. The details of place, the small connections, bind all people.

As I approached the village, I arrived at a gate almost out of the blue. I immediately felt like I had been picked up and dropped off in some movie set. I repeated to myself ‘wow, you are not in Virginia any more.’ I was hesitant to walk through the arch like gate because it felt so different. I worked up the courage and slowly placed each foot in front of the other and walked through. I could have never imagined the place I entered – paths extending high up the steep mountain, homes built to accommodate cows in the front yard, traditional colors.

As leader of the day, I focused on how leadership could be implemented in a community like this. I asked the group to help me understand whether people were more self sufficient or whether they worked together. The community here is strong. They are close to one another and they are physically strong individuals.

I had the chance to go to Suman’s new house located on a high part of the mountain that overlooks most of the village. He explained that over half of the village had helped build his house – hundreds of helping hands at a time. There is a strong, righteous, powerful form of community here. It’s based on family, culture, and religion. There is true appreciation for what they have. There is a work ethic underlying everything.

I am grateful for the experience of witnessing and participating in a community outside of my own. Without this trip, I don’t know if I would have the same understanding of how much is provided without visible effort in my own community. When you are in a place where things take obvious effort and not all comforts are available, you begin to see the importance of connections we often overlook. You learn to see what comes easy in your life. As Mr. Cola said ‘it sometimes come so easy that we can’t appreciate it.’

Be aware of yourself, your place and others. There is so much to appreciate in this world. I encourage us all to acknowledge the easy things – safety, heat, roads, a smile. Appreciate the opportunities to connect with people, no matter how different they seem.

For me, it took an experience like this. I will be forever grateful. I leave you with the feeling that I got from my view before. I feel whole looking out from my rock pile. The birds soaring below me warp my perspective. Women walk below them washing clothes by hand. Village children laugh in the distance around a game – happiness, contentment, appreciation.

8 thoughts on “A Good View and a Pile of Rocks

  1. Caroline,
    It is especially wonderful to read your description of the community and values you find in Agora because you have worked so tirelessly here at CCS to unite our community and to help us accomplish great acts together. You say you’ve always “wanted to understand community.” I think you really do, and I think this is one of your gifts. It makes me think how lucky your next school community will be to have you. I wonder what great things you will accomplish next?! 🙂

    (Also, I love the detail in your story. I can just see that bird gliding in the thermals!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And Caroline (sorry, posted too soon) … I think another gift of yours is that you find and create happiness, contentment, and appreciation wherever you go … just as you recognize it in the children of Agora. As you get older, you will realize that this is one of the very greatest gifts of all!


  2. I love this post, Caroline. It sounds like you brought curiosity, a love of understanding and connection, and terrific observation skills with you on the trip. I’m not surprised. Half of the village helped to build Suman’s house? That is strength. Maybe community is not just words spoken in meetings; maybe it’s showing up for people with your hands, skills, time, and voice, or being with them as they’re going through a tough time. I see you doing these things at home, and I’m so glad you’ve had the chance to see them in action in a completely different place. I agree with Ms. Homer, we are lucky to have you in our community!


  3. Your appreciation of this place and all the revelations it provides is real, Caroline. Your readers can truly feel your full heart and see your mind opening up. This is especially noteworthy because you are already known as a person totally invested in our school community and energized to make it better. That combination of servant leadership and feeling lifted and embraced by the community at the same time will assure your path ahead.


  4. So nice to read these daily comments of…growth. Experience is knowledge. The constant theme that I get from reading these posts is gratitude !!
    Thank you for these uplifting readings.


  5. Caroline – I do so wish I knew you personally as the folks who have already commented obviously do! What a special young lady you are, destined to do great things in and with your life!
    I was there, sitting right with you on your rock…observing the beautiful experience you are enjoying and appreciating. Among your many talents, you are a gifted writer telling an amazing story. I felt truly there!
    Thank you for your extra special post❣


  6. What I like about this piece is the stream of consciousness. Caroline’s sitting on a mountain path, watching women carrying laundry while an albatross circles. Her thoughts on the interdependence of the Algora community reminds her of her school and home communities.

    I’m glad the students are getting a break from the classroom, schedules, screens, assignments and are able to just sit and reflect.


  7. Caroline’s aunt
    Beth Kellum

    I’m so very proud of Caroline! Caroline, you are wise beyond your years.

    I too, feel as if I’m with you on your journey. The eloquence and beauty of your writing draws me in. I can’t get enough as tears of pride flow from my eyes.

    I wish everyone who reads your piece could know how magnificent it makes me feel. You see, I am part of your heart and you are part of mine. How blessed am I?

    I can’t wait to see your bright future unfold!


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