Do you remember all of those pointless projects you did in grade school? Crayons, markers, constructions paper, poster board, shoe boxes, binders, etc...they all remind me of grade school projects. Well, my eighth grade English teacher would be proud. Mrs. Moyski (I had to try really hard to remember her name!) would be proud. Because, my poetry anthology I had to do is still near and dear to my heart.
I came across it this summer as I was packing up my room at home in Saline. As I flipped through the pages, I was caught off guard by how many of the poems that spoke to me 9 years ago were just as meaningful today. For some reason, I can also remember procrastinating and working on this assignment way past my bedtime...some things never change.
The assignment went something like this. Choose a poem, write a paragraph about why you chose it, and then add a picture to supplement it. While most of what I wrote then applies now, I thought it'd be sort of cool to add to the paragraphs, 9 years later, a new personal interpretation of the poem. So here it goes...I'll share this one with you.
Title: The Mission
Here's what I wrote then:
This is most likely one of my favorite poems. I like the message it sends, you're not too young, small, or weak to make a difference in the world. I know that there are many times where I've just sat back and let everyone else do the job, making excuses like, "...but I don't know how." This peom is like a small red string attached to my finger reminding me to take advantage of any situation where I may be able to help. My favorite few lines in the poem are, "You can chant in happy measure, as they slowly pass along; though they may forget the singer, they will not forget the song." It tells me that I don't need to reveive credit for what I do and that I can help out anywhere. However, it won't be easy, because opportunities don't just come to you, you have to go looking for them.
And the poem:
If you cannot in the ocean
Sail among the swiftest fleet,
Rocking on the highest billows,
Laughing at the storms you meet,
You can stand among the sailors,
Anchored yet within the bay;
You can lend a hand to help them,
As they launch their boats away.
If you are too weak to journey
Up the mountain, steep and high,
You can stand within the valley,
While the multitude go by.
You can chant a happy measure,
As they slowly pass along;
Though they may forget the singer,
They will not forget the song.
If you have not gold and silver
Ever ready to command,
If you cannot toward the needy
Reach an ever-open hand,
You can visit the afflicted
O'er the erring you can weep;
You can be a true disciple,
Sitting at the Savior's feet.
If you cannot in the conflict
Prove yourself a soldier true,
If where the fire and smoke are thickest
There's no work for you to do,
When the battle field is silent,
You can go with a careful tread;
You can bear way the wounded,
You can cover up the dead.
Do not then stand idly waiting
For some greater work to do;
Fortune is a lazy goddess,
She will never come to you.
Go and toil in any vineyard,
Do not fear to do or dare;
If you want a field of labor,
You can find it anywhere.
-Ellen M. Huntington Gates
And now, here's what I have to say...
I love the way this peom reads aloud. The most powerful lines are the final two. I've heard life after college graduation described as a second puberty. Graduates are often filled with confusion, loneliness, inadequacy, and don't really know what to make of the new situations in which they find themselves. If only you could wrap this poem up and give it to each young adult searching for meaning and purpose. There is no need to compare yourself to other people. In fact, I think it limits one's ability to see their own uniqueness. There is no need for you to wait for a door to open--fortune is a lazy goddess--rather, I think there are opportunities waiting to be seized. So, why do I love this poem? It instills the confidence that is lacking in so many people. You can do it. You can be yourself. You can, you can, you can. God designed you as you, and nobody else is youer than you! (Thank you, Dr. Seuss!) And, that is truth..."The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 1 Corinthians 12:21-26