We moved when my oldest daughter was four. One day, while I unpacked, my dad took her out to explore our new neighborhood. As they walked, he taught her the final stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Each time they came to an intersection, they would say together,
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
And I, I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Then he would let her choose which direction they would travel on from there. Eventually they became delightfully, and just a little, lost. Aglow when they returned, she had learned a poem, been the leader, and made it back from the brink of danger. It was a great day in the life of a four-year old adventurer.
Several months later, our family hiked the Natural Bridge trail in Yellowstone National Park. A section of that trail is a loop. We stood at the fork in the trail as she recited her poem, chose the trail and set our course. After walking together for a way, she declared earnestly, “I think this is the road less traveled.”
Yeah, little girl, it is.
Is is on a literal level because, of the 3 million visitors to the park each year, most never set foot off of the boardwalk. It is, though, for reasons more intangible and important than that.
- It is because she chose it. She stopped and considered which way to go, neither following a crowd nor responding to a false sense of urgency that would tempt her to take the easiest or quickest way. I have no idea what went on in that young mind of hers, but I know that stopping and considering before deciding is a habit which will help her to live well.
- It is because she was willing to, in more words from the same poem, “keep the first for another day,” forsaking the good for what she thought would be best.
- It is because she was out front. In that moment she was the leader. Leaders find themselves in uncharted territory where few have gone before.
That little girl is now a teenager and I want her to remember. I want her to remember the day she got lost with her Pa, the day she was able to choose and discovered the road less traveled, and the simple fact that there might be another road to take. I want her to recognize the road when she sees it, be discerning enough to know when to take it and strong enough to live with the fallout. And if ever it seems that the world around her doesn’t quite fit with her or she with it, I want her to recognize the road she is on and once again say, “I think this is the road less traveled.”
Ya, little girl it is. Enjoy the journey. It will not always be easy, but it will be worth it.
Linking up at A Little R & R.