What can we learn from Robert Frost about opportunities to build friendships?

The Pasture

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 sha’n’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 sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too. 

-Robert Frost

At the age of 23 I started graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. I had been through a lot of bullying in my life and didn’t trust many people. And here I was, in a new city were I didn’t know a soul. I slowly began to meet people and one day early in my time there, a woman I had met in my classes called me and said, “I free today, want to do something?” “Yes” I replied. At the time it struck me that I wouldn’t have had the courage to make that simple request of someone.  We became good friends and to this day I appreciate the fact that she reached out.

Sometimes all it takes is an invitation to open someone up and begin a great friendship. The simple act of invitation is why The Pasture is such an important poem for children and adult alike to ponder.  While most people do now live in cities and have different chores, the simple act of the speaker inviting someone into their daily experience is filled with serenity and kindness. Serenity in that there is no complaining about what the speaker has to do and kindness in wanting to share that peacefulness with someone else.

I read this poem for the first time with my parents as a child and I was struck by the gentleness of the speaker and the peacefulness of the world that child describes. In my 30s I taught children in Memphis about Robert Frost and used the Poetry for Young People – Robert Frost book as a reference. 

The book is ideal for 8-14 year olds and this poem in particular opens the door to discuss invitations we can make to grow and strengthen friendship. This poem doesn’t end with the other child saying “yes” although I would like to believe she did. However, even if she didn’t, it was well worth the effort of the child speaking in the poem to say, “You come too.” Because an invitation to spend time with someone is a great gift we all can give another human being. It allows us to communicate clearly to another person that they are important and valued.

Activities for Parents and Teachers:

In Poetry for Young People – Robert Frost, a couple of lines of commentary are included about this poem. The book’s editor explains that this poem is an invitation, but also that “Frost is…asking his reader to come into his world —a world of pastures, leaves, spring, and young calves newly born.” Ask children if they would say “yes” to the speaker of the poem and why.  

While most of us don’t have access to a farm, invite your children to a green space, a park or national wildlife refuge, to see a grassy area or stream for themselves. Talk about the fish and birds that use the area for habitat. Ask each child to invite a friend to attend, just like Robert Frost did.

Questions for the day for discussion or journalling:

When was a time that someone invited you somewhere fun?  How did you feel when they asked you?

Do you know someone who you could get to know better by inviting them to hang out with you? 

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