The Group

This was a group of 12-15 civic leaders in a small New England community. They did not all know each other before the Civic Reflection series began.

The Program

For the second of the six sessions, we read and discussed "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost. This was an excellent choice for this group—they were already familiar with the poem, yet still eager to talk about it.

Before we discussed the poem, we reviewed the list of values that we generated by consensus during the first session of the series: responsible citizenship, education, sustainability, heritage/legacy, and respect. Participants had prepared for the second session by conducting interviews with two people in the community from generations other than their own. I wanted them to listen for evidence, or lack thereof, of their own values to see whether others in the community shared them, identified them, as part of their civic involvement. Participants were eager to share the results of these conversations.


Participants were enthusiastic in reporting what they learned in their interviews with people in the community and found that, for the most part, their list held up.

The discussion about walls—what they do, how they make people feel, their function in a community, the extent to which walls contribute to or destroy neighborliness—was splendid. Everyone had something to contribute.

Next Time

I would absolutely use this poem again—and would again read the poem aloud at the beginning of the discussion and then invite one of the participants to reread it at the end of the evening. Hearing it a second time was a powerful way to complete what was a very intense and heartfelt conversation that evening.

Final Thoughts

We were fortunate to have a mason in the group, who was proud of stone walls he had built and who admired the stability and meaning of his work and the work of those who preceded him in this farming community. His contributions were a real bonus in this discussion . . . serendipity!

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