June 18, 2014, Washington, DC: I remember receiving Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” as a graduation gift long ago. I loved every word at age 18 as much as I did at 5, and I appreciate his book even more today. But this weekend, I was also compelled by the words of another doctor, likewise offering advice to graduates about the power of place.
This gem from doctor and writer Atul Gawande, appearing at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, was included in a compilation of excerpts from 2014 commencement speakers in Sunday’s New York Times:
“One thing I came to realize after college was that the search for purpose is really a search for place, not an idea. It is a search for a location in the world where you want to be part of making things better for others in your own small way. It could be a classroom where you teach, a business where you work, a neighborhood where you live. The key is, if you find yourself in a place where you stop caring — where your greatest concern becomes only you — get out of there.”
Isn’t that terrific? I thought those words deserved some space here on Neighborhood Nomads, both as a reflection on the places we’ve been and on those still ahead that we’ve yet to explore.
January 24, 2012, Washington, DC: And then it was everywhere. In every book I opened, every conversation I overheard, every article I read. People were curious about why those around them gravitate to the places they do. Suddenly it was clear I’d been pursuing this independent study for years. While packing and unpacking boxes. While working as a trip leader for a travel company. While studying the sociology and history of cities like New York. While writing essays about my neighborhood from Royal Ground Coffee on Polk Street. Over time, the books piled up, reflective of this narrative I was stringing together. They were reflective of my story.
Lens tightly focused on one subject, the proof bubbles up everywhere. To remind you that it’s a worthy exploration. That it’s a good use of time. That these are good questions.
Read on for my suggested reading list on the power of place and add your suggestions in the comments after the jump.