The Table: A little tale of reinvesting, rebuilding and reimagining

 Once upon a time there was a school nestled high up in pines and oaks of the San Diego mountains.  It was a small, rural, public elementary school, and the children and parents of this little school loved it very much.

Every year the children and parents of the school did fundraisers.  They sold wrapping paper.  They held spelling bees.  They hosted a used book sale.  The money they raised went to everything from scholarships to assemblies.

Each year the PTO gave a special, year-end gift to the school from the money they had raised.  One year they decided that the gift would be a table for the beautiful school garden.  But not just any table.

Not long ago, a wildfire had torn through their community.  One out of every four families in their school had lost a home in this terrible tragedy—the worst fire in California history. And there were many other fires that had turned their community upside down.

They thought about how their town had slowly and bravely rebuilt.  The big losses and small recoveries became part of their story as a community.   Then they thought about Don Madison, a local craftsman.

Don had a special gift.  He liked to take wood from trees killed in wildfires, mill it by hand and then make beautiful pieces of furniture.

Families from the school met Don and forged a friendship.  The children went to see the trees on the mountain and watch Don mill.  Don began to make the table.  Anticipation grew for its arrival at the school.

One day Don called the school and said the table was ready.  “It’s beautiful!” “It’s unique!”  “It’s HEAVY!” he said.  “It’s going to be a huge job to transport this table to the school and place it in the middle of the garden.  BUT I have an idea….”

Two weeks later a group of local firefighters slowly and carefully carried the table piece by piece on to the school campus with Don.

A celebration took place. The story was told.  Speeches were made. A ribbon was cut.  Cookies and lemonade were served.  And there were many “ooohs” and “aaahs” and very few dry eyes.

The table sits there today.  Sometimes it is ringed with students eating lunch.  Or reading.  Or learning science or art.

It is a gathering place.  A thing of beauty. A reminder of renewal.  A legacy table planted in a school garden in a small town, high up on a hill.