I have written about Kipling’s Poem If before. That poem and its ideals are part of my DNA. My grandpa was a Kipling fan, so is my mom. We heard that poem a lot. In the midst of all the rhetoric that abounds these days, I think about that poem all the time. I use it to remind myself to keep my head even if folks being rude and insulting. Here is the link from my other If post. https://believeanyway.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/kipling-is-the-man/ . I began to think of “If” at some point in time as a good reminder to resist pgroup pressure. It helped me immensely.
My husband and I have tried to model that sort of thinking (remaining principled and calm in the face of insults and rhetoric) throughout our lives. We model it for our son, nieces, and nephews. We model it with co-workers. I teach those principles to my students. We regularly admit our mistakes and apologize for them. This carries a lot of weight. The other day, my son let me know in his own special way that he had learned these lessons. He was talking about some of his actions in elementary school. He said “I bet that was really hard on you and dad when I acted that way”. I said “yes, it surely was”. He said “I am very sorry about that. I wish I hadn’t acted that way. I hope you know you can count on me to do the right things now”. I said “I definitely can”. He looked at me, and said with total sincerity, “You have my word on that, mom”. Yes, he is a man now, his own and God’s man. He regularly tells us how grateful he is for us. He is a joy and a delight.
The first time I remember realizing he was a man and not a boy occurred when he was 17. We were at Yellowstone National Park. He and I had hiked down this gravel and dirt path. As the descent grew steeper, he automatically went out a few feet in front of me to watch the terrain. As we walked, my feet slipped a little on the gravel. I didn’t fall or lose my balance. But as he heard the noise, he straightened his shoulders, turned towards me, extended his arm SO confidently, and said something like “here, mom; take my hand. I’ll guide you down the path”.
I took his hand, his arm was strong, his eyes loving. It was one of those moments that time stood still and will forever remain in my heart. It wasn’t just the words. It was the way they were said. I just knew. We had at that moment, without warning, forever crossed a chasm from boyhood to manhood. “you’ll be a man my son” indeed. I say without warning, but of course, each step of his life dovetailed at that moment.
Then a few years later we consistently have amazing discussions about life, goals, values….he has a firm faith foundation. He is compassionate. When I hear the poem If these days I think of him, of course. My son would be the first to mention that of course he became that kind of man–he had his dad for an example of manhood, and me for a mom.
I am grateful beyond measure for the If moments in my life. For your edification, I am putting the poem here. My friend Terry reminded me that Rudyard Kipling wrote this for his son just before his son joined the British Army in WWI. His son did not survive that war.
May the sacrifices of others and the love we have for our families and friends warm your heart. I hope you are having a terrific day.
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!