On the way home from church, a little boy sat in the backseat of the car sobbing. His father and mother asked him repeatedly what was wrong. Finally the little guy confided that he was bothered by something he heard in church. “The preacher said all children should be brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you all.”

That would certainly be a sobering statement for church-going parents to hear from their little one. Children are honest above of all else. They’ll tell us things sometimes that we’d rather not hear, but are actually good for us.

“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deed” (Colossians 3:9).

With that little boy’s brutal honesty in mind, allow me to share a portion of a Sam Foss poem from the late 1800s that community leaders should find quite sobering.

One day, through the primeval wood,

A calf walked home, as good calves should;

But made a trail all bent askew,

A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled,

And, I infer, the calf is dead.

But still he left behind his trail,

And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day

By a lone dog that passed that way;

And then a wise bell-wether sheep

Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,

And drew the flock behind him, too,

As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,

Through those old woods a path was made;

And many men wound in and out,

And dodged, and turned, and bent about

And uttered words of righteous wrath

Because ‘twas such a crooked path.

But still they followed -- do not laugh --

The first migrations of that calf,

And through this winding wood-way stalked,

Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,

That bent, and turned, and turned again;

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,

The road became a village street,

And this, before men were aware,

A city’s crowded thoroughfare;

And soon the central street was this

Of a renowned metropolis;

And men two centuries and a half

Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

A hundred thousand men were led

By one calf near three centuries dead.

They followed still his crooked way,

And lost one hundred years a day;

For thus such reverence is lent

To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,

Were I ordained and called to preach;

For men are prone to go it blind

Along the calf-paths of the mind,

And work away from sun to sun

To do what other men have done.

They follow in the beaten track,

And out and in, and forth and back,

And still their devious course pursue,

To keep the path that others do.

That poem caught my attention because it has a message for leaders who do the same old thing over and over and over again, even when it no longer works. It would serve us well to evaluate our longstanding programs and initiatives as to their effectiveness. And if they are no longer helpful, perhaps it’s time to get off that cow path.

Insanity, someone famously said, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

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