When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a person turns about
When they might have won had they stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.
Often strugglers have given up
And they might have captured the victor’s cup
And they learned too late when the night came down,
Success is failure turned inside out
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.
This is a poem I first came across 23 years ago. A University of Iowa basketball player, Chris Street, had been killed in an accident, and as a state, we were in an awful place. This was a man, a native Iowan, that we’d all come to absolutely love. He was hard working, passionate about life, and a terrific ball player to boot. The accident, the suddenness of it, and the fallout from it showed us just how fragile life can be. It wasn’t until later that year that this poem started to float around, and it’s been something I’ve kept close.
As I watch many of my students, both 6th and 8th graders, I see the quit in their eyes. Whether it’s the fact that school is hard, home is hard, friends are hard, they are hurting. One of the things I’ve found moving up to the middle school, I don’t have background on many of my students. Half of our students come from a different community, and I don’t know their parents. In a small rural community, you just know. Sure, we do team building types of activities, but sometimes, you just know things because you’ve had an older brother or sister in class, bump into someone at the store, or participate on the same community committee.
So, today, we’ll be reading this poem, taking it apart a little bit, and sharing some writing about what emotions it brings out in us. I think it’s a good end of a screwy week activity. Monday, two hour late start, Tuesday and Wednesday snow days, so trying to get focus back was difficult yesterday to say the least! Personal reflection is never a bad thing, and something like this I think is needed.
It’s about relationships, finding ways to fight beyond the tough spots to find “the victor’s cup”, whatever that may be in their lives.
And if you find inspiration in this poem, even better. The more we can lift each other up, the easier our collective load is to bear.