Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Little Stones of Community

As a principal I am always mindful and conscious of the notion of "school as community". I like the metaphor that compares a community to a mosaic comprised of thousands of stones, each beautiful on their own but when put together they reveal a glorious and impressive picture. 

Another powerful example of community is retold by Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Outliers, when he documents the amazing story of the small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania. The town was established, at the turn of the 20th century, by a wave of Italian immigrants.

It the 1950’s, one of the town’s doctors noticed that very few of his patients, under the age of 65 suffered from heart disease. In fact, the heart attack rate for those under 65 was half the national average and the overall death rate in Roseto was 35% lower than rest of country. In addition, crime rates and drug addiction rates were almost non-existent!
In a search for answers, researchers studied the dietary and exercise habits of the locals. To their surprise they discovered that the people paid little attention to nutrition, often eating rich and fatty foods! As for their exercise habits - they were as active as the rest of country. The researchers even looked at environmental factors (water, air quality, etc.) and discovered that this, also, was not a factor in understanding what was happening in the town.

Continuing with their search for answers, anthropologists were brought in to study how the townspeople lived out their daily lives. They walked around the town, met with the people and discovered that the secret to their longevity was rooted in the quality of the interactions and relationships they had with each other.

In their findings the researchers noted that: 

  • It was common for the townspeople to cook for each other and share meals together.
  • It was common to have three generations of the same family living in one house.
  • Everyone in the town gathered on Sunday – where they discovered the calming effect of faith in community.
  • As a general rule, people treated each other equally, regardless of wealth or status – no one was seen as superior
  • The townspeople had a deep commitment to helping each other in service.
In the end the researchers found that the people of Roseto were living longer and healthier because they had created a culture rooted in a caring and supportive community.

As a self-described caring community, I recent asked members of my school community (students, teachers, staff and parents) to reflect on the following questions:

  • Are you inclusive of others? 
  • Do you serve others? 
  • Do you come together with an open and peaceful heart? 
  • Are you treating others with respect and equality? 
Like the early founders of Roseto understood, authentic community is rooted in equality, service, goodwill and love.  When put together they reveal a beautiful and diverse mosaic.....


  1. I love this post. Cultivating a positive, inclusive school culture is so important. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. An important idea for sure!. Keep well!