“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know what it was put up.”

Robert Frost

Imagine, for a moment, you’re on a long, dusty road, and you come across a fence. It’s a rusty old thing, its wires twisted and warped with age, its posts crooked and leaning. It stretches on, beyond what your eyes can see, a seemingly useless barrier in an otherwise open landscape. Your first instinct might be to tear it down, to rid the world of this ugly interruption.

But hold on. Here’s a thought: that fence was not built on a whim. It wasn’t erected just to annoy passersby or disrupt the view. Someone, at some point in time, put it up for a reason. It served a purpose, fulfilled a need, solved a problem.

Before you get busy with the wire cutters, it’s worth asking why. Why is the fence here? What was its original function? Was it to keep something out or to keep something in? Maybe it’s a boundary line, a marker of territory. Perhaps it protects a delicate ecosystem or prevents a dangerous crossing.

So, don’t be too hasty. Before you decide to dismantle, understand its story. It’s a lesson that extends far beyond fences. It’s about respecting the wisdom of the past and the lessons already learned. It’s about understanding that our present environment, however imperfect, has been shaped by the experiences of those who came before us.

So, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.” The reason may be outdated, irrelevant, or not applicable anymore. In that case, tear it down, by all means. But if it’s still serving its purpose, let it stand. It’s a valuable piece of wisdom, applicable to fences and life alike. Know the why before you act on the what. It saves a lot of trouble in the long run.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.