Good Neighbors Make Better Fences

In his famous poem, The Mending Wall, Robert Frost coins the phrase “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.” This phrase is often used to suggest that the best relationship between neighbors is a fence that clearly defines their shared border.

It has also been suggested more than once that a university should put up a fence around its perimeter—on the one hand, to keep the students and their “mischief” in, and on the other, to keep the locals out. But in today’s environment, we need each other more than ever, and we need to learn from one another as we bring talents that make us both better communities, and in the end, lead to there being only one community.

Tuesday evening, Debbie and I hosted a garden supper for our neighbors in Kinwood, directly to the north of the campus. Methodist has experienced growth on its north side, first with residence halls and athletic facilities “down back” that border some of the neighborhood and most recently with the construction of the new sophomore residence hall, North Hall, along Kinlaw Road on the northwest corner of the campus. You might first think those who accepted our invitation would come with complaints or major concerns regarding the increased activity. Certainly there would be questions about traffic, parking, and noise. But what we received was a warm welcome to the neighborhood as the president and first lady, and a “thank you” for the invitation and the opportunity to hear about the plans for the University. In fact, these neighbors were proud of the growth of Methodist and what it means to the community. And what we also realized was that many of these neighbors were already involved in the University in some way or another, either as alumni or business people who benefit from the campus, or in some cases, current or retired employees of Methodist. In essence, they reminded us that the border between the University and the community is seamless, if it exists at all. As it should be.

There has never been a great university without a great community, and I would hope that the community believes that it is “greater” by virtue of having a university and its many resources available. One of the reasons we have launched the Methodist University Journey with its Center for Community Engagement is to give our students an opportunity to be involved in the community—to take on (and help solve) some of the community’s problems and use these opportunities as a learning experience that will help them prepare for graduate schools or their chosen professions as they hone their problem-solving skills.  It also helps students understand the importance of civic engagement and perpetuates one of the most fundamental principles of democracy—one that sets America apart from other countries, and why this nation, and the community of Fayetteville, offers a wonderful place to live, work, and learn.

Yes, good neighbors make for better fences, and in the end, remove the need for fences at all.

Marathon Training Update

This week my “long run” was up to 10 miles. (Only eight weeks to the Chicago Marathon.)  For me with my “15 minute mile,” this represents a great deal of time to think about neighbors—and students. The course for my training is not as quiet these days, as the early arrivals for football, band practice, and other activities cause me to stop and chat and get to know the newest members of our community.  Not good for my training, but highly motivating!

Ben Hancock

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