When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
“A Time to Talk” by Robert Frost.
This period in history we find ourselves in is strange and unpredictable. But it also seems to have the ingredients of the supernatural—of God allowing things to happen for very specific reasons. I’m curious if God has been trying to get our attention, to show us how bad we’ve become at simply taking the time to talk with each other. Western culture seems to run at only one speed—faster—and our personal health is just one of the casualties.
This sweet and simple ten line poem touches on an art that can feel old-fashioned and inconvenient in our modern existence. It is the art of slowing down long enough to have a human connection. Every time I read “A Time to Talk,” I imagine life somewhere in the southern states of the U.S., sipping sweet tea in a rocking chair on the verandah, waving a neighbour over to come sit and leisurely talk about life with zero knowledge of time.
As we have been forced to remain indoors for days that turned to weeks, that turned to months—many of us came to realize that we weren’t meant to live solitary existences. We were created by a triune God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—three persons in one—to be in community with our fellow humans. It touches me every time I see people around the world discovering and inventing creative ways to connect with one another. I love hearing of porch visits, socially distanced park gatherings and drive by parades to celebrate special occasions.
In “A Time to Talk,” the poet Robert Frost captures the value of friendship and the importance we should place on it in our lives. Nothing is more important to the speaker than his friend. This is evident through the speaker’s deliberate disregard for his work as soon as he sees his friend, and the effort taken to truly hear what his visitor has to say.
I try to live by the philosophy that people matter more than getting things done. But like most people, I can get carried away by the long list of to-dos I feel the need to check off. And yet, I can’t help but hope that in this strange season of being cut off from people physically, we as a culture will strive to perfect how to truly reconnect with people—not just with friends and family, but with the neighbours and strangers who cross our path.
Perhaps when that person approaches us, the words of this poem and the memory of the months of separation from each other will flash through our minds. Perhaps we will learn to lay aside what’s in our hands, to remember that people matter more than chores, business, even pleasure. Perhaps we will remember that human connection is invaluable, and that we as individuals thrive best when we’re functioning within a community.