Last assembly’s reflection on Armistice and the imbalance that drove Europe into the Great War led me back to a favourite poet of mine, Rudyard Kipling, who lost his son in France and wrote many powerful pieces about the trauma caused by the war.
The heavy themes of Armistice seem to have lingered in the air, as my mind came back to Kipling time and again these past weeks. On many occasions I have had reason to reflect on the demand for balance in our daily lives, saturated as they are by images of warfare around the globe, media reminding us of the many ways the sky is falling in, and then among all this are our own hectic schedules.
More specifically it was Kipling’s poem, “If” that lingered long in my mind, and the thought occurred to me that he might have written it differently had he been writing for a middle school audience today. Not being able to take up the challenge himself, I feel certain Kipling won’t have minded my own attempt to reshape his poem to appeal to our Middle School’s quest for balance.
If – A middle schooler’s adaptation
By James Prowse
If you can keep your head screwed on
When everyone else is going mad;
If you can trust yourself when others question,
And not let their words make you feel bad;
If you can wait and not get sick of waiting,
And not give up when you tire;
If you can refuse all temptation,
And find the strength to still aim higher.
If you can dream—but not make dreams your master;
If you can think—but not act on thought alone;
If you can see it is not a big disaster,
When you get asked to give up your phone;
If you can listen when views get spoken,
Even when they don’t match your ideas;
If you can watch your attempts get broken,
And resist the urge to give up in tears.
If you can walk and talk with different people,
Giving young and old your full attention;
If you can look at work and not think it’s evil,
And still find the time for quiet reflection.
If you can reach a hard day’s end,
And still manage to sing and dance,
Then the world is yours, my dear friend
For you’ve learned the art of balance.