You can take me to the water,
but you cannot make me drink.
You can puzzle me with questions,
but you cannot make me think.
When I’m little, I may listen
and I even might obey.
But when I’ve grown in seasons,
I will go my chosen way.
You can give me all your reasons,
you can say what’s right and wrong.
And I’ll listen to your speeches,
but I still might hum my song.
That’s the way of all the beings
who are free to choose and err.
I can learn from all my trials,
if you’ll let me do that, sir.
If you force me to obedience—
to saying you are right,
you will lose what you have conquered
by insistence or by might.
For a person, robbed of freedom,
is a person robbed of joy.
I will sulk and be resentful
of the means that you employ.
So tell me what you’re thinking
and then show me the respect
that I need to make decisions.
That is all that I expect.
There is room for compromises,
for yielding and retaining.
If you’re rigid in your thinking,
I’ll be only fit for training.
But I also am a person,
with my likes and my concerns.
So I offer you my friendship,
if you’ll let me have my turns.
There are things that I can tell you.
There are things I’d rather not.
If you show that you are open,
you might even learn a lot.
Brooklyn, New York