This I Believe
In fourth grade my teacher introduced our class to a poem called If, by Rudyard Kipling. We were given the assignment of memorizing the one page poem and to prove that we knew it, we would have to recite it in front of the whole class. My teacher had enlightened us with a story of a former student who had taken the poem to heart and how he now says the poem every morning as he wakes up. I knew that I wanted to be like that; a person who made If an everyday occurrence.
I can remember many poetry classes where our student teacher would go line by line and have us discover the real meaning of the poem such as discovering vocabulary like sinew or knaves. I was captivated by the powerful statements, but deep down I knew that I would never truly understand them until I had really experienced life. Memorizing was hard and it took me a long time to get the words down pat. I did get it all memorized and when I finished reciting the poem flawlessly in front of class I felt very proud of myself. It was an amazing feeling.Soon after I memorized the poem, I forgot it. If didn’t leave me for long though.
About three years later in the midst of a soccer game, a line from the poem came back to me. The verse came at a time where all seemed lost for our soccer team and it was hard to keep our effort going to a common goal. We were tied one to one with a formidable team and many fingers were being pointed. I felt like I was being blamed by my teammates for not trying hard enough. The first line of If came to me then with a lot of meaning. “If you can keep your head while all others about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” Everything fell into place after that and I was ready to play real soccer and play my heart out. I believed in that line of If and it really helped me. We won that game two to one. I really feel like we won because I believed in If. I feel like I am a better soccer player when I believe in If, like one who knows what they are doing and have confidence. So If became part of my soccer games and I sometimes will say a line to myself during the game over and over as if it was something that could give our team an advantage. I always thought that if I believed in If hard enough we might actually win the game.
Although I still don’t have the poem rememorized, I know a few lines, but I think that is how I want it to be. This way I make my own If of sorts. If I had run faster. If I can pass the ball to an open player. If it wasn’t so sunny. And so on. My fourth grade teacher was also all about legacy and how things that you do in life will be part of your legacy. I guess I wanted my legacy to be that I followed all of the things in If had had a good time while fulfilling the poem’s standard so the line, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,” could be true.
I think it’s fair to say that this writing probably doesn’t mean very much to someone who has never read If. So I will leave you with one of my favorite lines from the poem that I believe has a great deal of meaning in it. “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.” I hope you will find some meaning in it too.
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