Ever since I can remember, I’ve Ioved this simple, soothing poem by Robert Frost. I first wrote about it a few years ago. But its message fits so beautifully with summer, I thought I’d repeat it…
“I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may)
I shan’t be gone long. You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan’t be gone long. You come too.”
“You come, too.” What a loving invitation. And it was an invitation not to the opening game of the World Series or to dinner at Gracie Mansion or to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner – but just to take a little walk in a pasture. Interestingly, in it’s honest, straightforward way, it represents the best of what is now labeled “inclusion”- a relatively recent imperative in most corporations – driven by human resource professionals and extolled by CEO’s. According to Shirley Engelmeier, author of a book called Inclusion; The New Competitive Business Advantage, inclusion is “a call to action within the workforce that means actively involving every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches, and styles to maximize business success.” Whew! But seriously, “inclusion” is a good thing. Good for people, good for business.
But perhaps underneath it all, the real “imperative” in being a good – and maybe even a happy human being – is to be the one who reaches out to invite other people in – not to use them, but to enjoy them. Not to make them productive but simply to make them – and yourself – happy. And that takes me back once again to when I was a kid…
I was just ten years old when I went to a camp in Vermont for eight weeks. It was an absolutely wonderful camp. The riding, tennis, swimming, singing – and the counselors – were all unforgettable. And even an incredibly homesick little girl from Ohio fell completely in love with it. One of the parts about camp I loved best was “Sunday Evening Vespers.” Every Sunday evening, Mrs. Furlong, the owner and director, led a conversation about friendship, kindness, effort, honor and well, being a good person. There are a lot of things she said that I remember. One was, “Two men looked out of prison bars. One saw mud, the other stars.” It was kind of scary but I liked it. I can even hear her rich North Carolina accent as if it were yesterday… But it’s this epigram written by another American poet, Edwin Markham, that all these decades later, sticks in my heart …
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!”
When our older daughter, Kate, was in the third grade, all the students were asked to bring in a poem about kindness. (I guess the word, “inclusion” hadn’t been invented yet.) She brought in “Outwitted.” Her teacher said later, “I’ve been waiting all my life for a poem like this…”
“Reaching out” and “inviting in” are always good things to do – whether you’re little or big. But I fear we do it less and less. Not because we’re not “kind” but because we’re “crazed.” We’ve got 400 “new” emails to read, for one thing. And doing anything other than just ‘getting through” the day seems, well, unrealistic. But wait a minute. How long could it take to give a call (or send an email) to someone you’ve just met or someone you haven’t connected with in months or maybe years and invite them into your “circle?” And, of course, you can ask them to bring their “ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and styles” if you like. Or you could just ask them to bring their warmth and their sense of humor.
It doesn’t really matter. Just say, “You come, too.”