In our busy world of must-do’s, should-do’s, and could-do’s, we almost always feel the pressure to live up to expectations. Whether they are someone else’s or our own, these expectations have a way of forming or deforming all we do.

Even during a casual, seemingly aimless conversation, I’ve noticed how my desire to leave a positive impression can sometimes surface as an internal pressure to perform.

How often is it that we actually feel welcome to think, speak, and act without an agenda? 

“Invitation, not demand” is the third Courage & Renewal Touchstone. It means that in our Circles of Trust, people are invited to do whatever they feel called to do — or not do. The invitation to participate always honors freedom and autonomy. 

I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, so when Alexis Rotella’s poem “Purple” came across my desk the other day, I appreciated it with fresh eyes.


In first grade
Mrs. Lohr said
my purple teepee
wasn’t realistic enough
that purple was no color
for a tent,
that purple was a color
for people who died,
that my drawing
wasn’t good enough to hang
with the others.

I walked back to my seat
counting the swish swish swishes
of my baggy corduroy trousers.
With a black crayon
nightfall came to my purple tent
in the middle of an afternoon.

In second grade
Mr. Barta said draw anything,
he didn’t care what.

I left my paper blank
and when he came around
to my desk
my heart beat like a tom tom.
He touched my head
with his big hand
and in a soft voice said
the snowfall
how clean
and white
and beautiful.

~ Alexis Rotella (c) 1983, 2008, 2011, reproduced here with the poet’s permission
(please support the poet at  /

In “Purple” we see two teachers contrasted: first Mrs. Lohr, who expects drawings to be realistic, and then Mr. Barta, who welcomes the imagination.

But more than an open invitation to “draw anything”, what really strikes me about Mr. Barta is that when his student chooses to draw nothing, Mr. Barta honors this choice and offers a gentle affirmation.

What does it mean to offer — and honor — an open invitation?

In our lives and work, how do we invite others toward authentic self-expression, rather than demand they show up?

Can you think of places in your life where you might ease your expectations and expand a sense of possibility?

With gratitude and best wishes,
Terry Chadsey
Executive Director

P.S. Circles of Trust provide an opportunity to explore big questions about your life and leadership in a safe space framed by touchstones like “open invitation.” See upcoming Courage & Renewal programs on our calendar.

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