If—We Could Just Live This

By on June 26, 2013
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This is long, but I was just remembering—seems like the older I get, the more I do that reminiscing thing that old people do! I am working on my Hugh Freeze story for August, and just hearing his philosophy of everything from marriage to parenting to coaching brought this poem to my mind.

Back in my school days, we had a lot of poems to memorize. We were then graded on our recitation.  It could be somewhat intimidating to stand in front of your peers and recite from memory. It did not matter whether we were shy or confidant—we all had to do it.  My legendary senior English teacher, Mrs. Shuttleworth, had us memorizing the Prologue to Canterbury Tales and all sorts of really challenging things. I can’t remember if she assigned “If” by Rudyard Kipling, or if I had to memorize this earlier, but I have always loved it. It is filled with real wisdom and would be a great thing for parents to just read through and consider instilling the kinds of values in their children that Kipling extolled in this.

I sent it to my son last night thinking he might have learned it along the way also. He had, and he used it last night as the bedtime story for his three children. Gave great cause for thought and discussion from an eight, five, and four year old. I thought I would share. All you can really be sure of leaving to your children are the things that the world—or an evil government—can never take away.

“If”

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)