Miss. Rumphius is a book for children (but really for everybody) that my mom, the best librarian ever, used to read to me when I was little. The story is about a girl who is told that she must do three things over the course of her life. First, she must travel to faraway places. Second, she must settle and live by the sea. Third, and most important says the book, young Miss. Rumphius must do something to make the world more beautiful.
I won’t tell you about Miss. Rumphius’s adventures. You will have to read the book for yourself. However, what I want you to know now is that you can make any kind of difference anywhere in the world, with whatever you have. I have proof of this, too.
In Montevdieo there lives a man who is now retired. With his working years behind him, he started to find that he was very restless and even a little bored. He walked the streets of the old city day after day and started to notice that the stone tiled streets of the city were in poor repair. In fact, many of the stone tiles were missing altogether, or coming up from the pavement in a way that was dangerous. It made the old city look run down and even a little ugly.
One day, on one of his walks, the man had a brilliant idea. You see, he was an artist, and skilled at making mosaic tiles. Mosaic is when you make a bigger picture out of a bunch of smaller pieces. The very next Sunday the man went to Feria de Tristán Narvaja in Montevideo and bought a bunch of mismatched plates and cups and saucers. Then he went home, placed the dishes in a big pillowcase, and smashed them to bits. He mixed a bit of cement with water, and waited for the sun to go down.
At about two o’clock that morning, the man set out for the streets of the old city. He found a square of tiles that were missing, and he placed a beautiful tile mosaic in its place. He did it in the middle of the night so that by the time the city was filled with workers and tourists the next morning, the mosaic would be set and ready to be walked on. He continues to do this regularly even to this day.
If you go to Montevideo today you can see these small bits of art all over the old city. They are unexpected and lovely, and the artist is certainly doing his part to make the world more beautiful.
Learning about this artist made me consider my contribution to the neighborhoods where I live and work. If that man’s materials for change are broken up plates and an artist’s heart and mind, surely I can find a way to contribute to my community in a profound way, and so can you. Remember that your contribution does not have to be something that people can see. In fact, some of the most brave and honest examples of beauty are hardly noticeable unless you are really close to them. For example, think about a teacher who helps you with a problem that isn’t about school. Think about when you make yourself uncomfortable to help somebody on the street. Think about a friend who needs a lot of your time or energy. That kind of helping is revolutionary, too, and there are examples of it everywhere.
Enjoy these pictures of the artist’s work, and complete assignment number six: What are some things that you can do to make the world more beautiful?