The Group

1. 10 undergraduates in a course on Civic Engagement. 2. 18 undergraduates in a program on Ethics and Civic Life.


This poem and its themes generated a lot of interest amongst students. One student told me later she incorporated the poem and our reflection in her philosophy paper.


This poem does all the work. My only dissatisfaction is with our closing question.

Opening Activity

Think about a time you could have intervened to help a stranger. Why did you help, or why didn't you?

Discussion Questions

  • Why does the speaker pick up the man on the road? (This question does most of the work!)
  • [Does the dog matter? How? (I have never had to actually ask this question--someone always brings up the dog)]
  • Why does the speaker let the man out at a pay phone and tell him to call someone?
  •  What’s with this word “okay”? (This is a great question for digging deeper when it seems like all the themes are out on the table) •
  • Does the speaker does too little, or too much, for the man? (This question helps change the conversation when it seems like the majority judges the speaker of the poem for doing too little)
  •  Why do we help strangers? (This question can help get at how we divide strangers from neighbors or other affiliations without being overly-explicit.)

Closing Activity

What lingering question do you have about the poem?

Final Thoughts

This poem is a sure bet and a great place to start a series about civic life.

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