A number of years ago, I was lucky enough to attend Middlebury College, a small school in Vermont. It's a wonderful institution made famous at the time because of its foreign language school, which during the summer months attracted top language professors from all over the country to teach postgraduate courses. The school also was renowned for the diverse language programs it offered during the regular academic year. If I were to make a movie about the ideal setting for a college campus, Middlebury would be the perfect setting. Nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountain range, the school has about 1,800 students and its own skiing area.
Another attribute the school possessed when I was there was that the American literature department was widely known for its excellence. That's where I discovered Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson and all the other great writers this country has produced. Reading these talented authors gave me a better sense of what this country was about and why even today some of the lectures by my professors at Middlebury flood back to me.
There was another bonus that I enjoyed at Middlebury. Robert Frost would come to read poetry to interested students in the chapel, usually during the winter months. Frost lived only a few miles from the school and had a standing invitation to speak to the students. When he did read, his asides were probably the highlights of the evening because of his well-developed sense of humor about all things, especially himself. I will always remember Frost looking like Santa Claus and reciting one of his most famous and memorable poems called "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." I am sure most of you are familiar with it. It has beguiled students, teachers and critics forever and has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Here's how it goes:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
As 2003 comes at all of us with its seductive force, there is some measure of comfort to be derived from Frost's thoughts. One interpretation could be that what Frost is talking about has to do with honor, principle and maybe even fantasy. It would be so comforting to sit on the side of the road deep in the woods with the snowflakes floating down, feeling all the stress fall away from one's life.
There are all kinds of reasons to shy away from life and its commitments. Life is complex. It's filled with paradoxes and ambiguity. Many people simply give up. They have that right, of course, and shouldn't be made to feel bad for doing so. But in doing that you lose out on much of what makes life meaningful. Part of that is making commitments to others and keeping your word. Most of the people I have met in this industry have impressed me with their dedication to helping others. Whether in information technology, finance or administration, they are deeply committed to the promise of helping others.
Think of the seductiveness of Frost's words: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep." To me he was saying that in order to fulfill one's destiny each of us has to engage in life and dedicate ourselves to keeping our promises to our families, our friends, our employers, our country and ourselves. Maybe these lines from "Risks," by an unknown author, might be something to think about as we start to go through 2003:
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes, they are a slave, they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.
The real adventure is living day by day, making a difference by keeping our promises and commitments and being willing to take risks. Let's make healthcare an even greater business that serves others.
Have a great 2003,
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