The One Where I Take the Leap

Part One of a Series

Two years ago, when I started this site, my intention was to tell a story that was, at the time, over 23 years in the making. My goal was to get the story out before the idea turned 25. Instead I wrote about things that were completely unrelated and safe (except for the Yes Ma’am post that ended up being not so safe). People shared those stories via Facebook or Twitter, so I thought that perhaps I should just write haphazardly and see what stuck to the Facebook feed. It’s been fun to watch the number of shares and comments and just float along through the blogosphere, but deep down I’ve felt more like the Jon Acuff who has cable than the Jon Acuff with DirecTV.

Then the New York Post published this article on August 16, 2015 and I thought to myself, if I don’t hurry up and post that idea people are just going to think that I ripped the whole thing from the New York Post.

I humor myself sometimes thinking that you guys take my posts serious enough to actually research where I get my ideas.

Nonetheless, for 25 years I’ve struggled to get this idea out; I’ve started a book that I never pushed through to completion. I’ve collected photographs that my friend, Jim Hartsell, was kind enough to send to me but that I never posted. I’ve started key note presentations on the off chance that the revelations in the book went through the stars and I was in high demand to speak to business leaders and at commencement ceremonies about the idea. Then the Post went and scooped me. Alas, today I start a journey. I don’t know how many parts will be in the series. Maybe three. Maybe three hundred. May be that the site finally finds its voice expressing the idea for which it was created. I really don’t know. I just know that I’m standing here about to jump…here goes….

An Untitled Work (Abridged)

I don’t remember her name. I remember that she was unlike any “teacher” that I ever had before. She had a haircut like mine and, regardless of the weather, she wore the same outfit to class every day; baggy sweat pants with an oversized t-shirt. To prove herself a professor, she wore socks with sandals. I guess, more accurately, they were ugly rubber sandals that were worn by most, sober, college freshmen in the community shower. She drank regular Coke from an aluminum can and, more than once each class, it seemed that she was looking for a place to spit after taking a sip.

She cursed. Freely and fluently and thoroughly and without apology. This was before the time of cell phones and email, when the unwritten rule was that class was canceled if the professor did not show after 15 minutes. Even though class began at 10:00AM, the unwritten rule canceled several Friday classes.

It was the Spring semester of 1990 at The University of Alabama. After four years of AP English in high school, I still didn’t score high enough on the English AP test – or any other AP test for that matter – to skip any college coursework. Alas, I sat in English 102, terrified that I would be called on to explain the works of Wilde, Whitman, and Cummings.

In high school, I raised my hand to answer every question. In college, I hid on about the fourth row – not the front of the class, but close enough to the front to give the illusion that I wasn’t afraid to be called upon. Not at the back of the class either, which is a sure way to be called upon. I sat just far enough back that I would be overlooked. [If you’ve ever wondered how or where it started, it was in this class, or perhaps English 101.]

I didn’t know what the writers were trying to say. To me their words were just what appeared on the page. The words meant what the words meant, and I had a hard enough time just trying to figure that out. I couldn’t begin to imagine what they were REALLY saying.

So we came to the a study of Robert Frost. To my knowledge there is one poetry book in our house, The Poetry of Robert Frost. Though his work is not hard to understand and appreciate, I learned to enjoy the works in English 102. His words needled together in black ink against white paper created visions of color and life that even I, who made a 2 on the AP English exam, could see.

Everyone knows The Road Not Taken (Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…). Fewer, perhaps, know another favorite, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  The poem that has stayed with me for 25 years now, the one that won’t go away, is Mending Wall.

Mending Wall

Photo Credit: @JimHHartsell
Photo Credit: @JimHHartsell

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

– Robert Frost

Pretty spectacular, right?  I don’t want to say that Mending Wall haunts me. I sleep well most nights, but there is something about the poem that I think applies to me and you. Once we recognize it and understand it, we can begin changing the way that we relate to others. We can become a better son, daughter, husband, wife, parent, employee, leader. That’s why I’m writing this series.

That’s where I’m going to leave it today. Thank you for stopping by. Have a great weekend!