At my kids’ school, they have an annual Speech Meet, where all the 1st through 6th graders memorize a piece of poetry, scripture, fable, or historical speech (for the older grades) and present it before a panel of judges. Last year both Sienna and Mateo presented several verses of scripture, but this year they each looked for a poem to memorize.
The act of selecting a poem really demonstrated the differences in their personalities! Sienna has artistic soul and loved reading through poems looking for one that “sounded like her.” She let me read her several options from a book called “The Best Loved Poems of the American People” which I was given for my 16th birthday and carried around with me all these years!
Mateo, on the other hand, agonized over his selection after his teacher didn’t approve his initial choice of a silly Shel Silverstein poem. As I read him option after option, and Dennis found him even more possibilities online, he became increasingly agitated. One night as he was going to bed, he told me, “It really isn’t helpful when you give me so many options. It doesn’t help.” I apologized and told him, “I’m sure you can handle this, Teo.”
We have similar personalities, Mateo and me. We want to do the right thing and that can lead to debating simple choices. I could see that he was trying to pick the perfect option, which simply doesn’t exist. Also, we can tend to be “in our heads” which makes it difficult to connect to the emotional depth of poetry. The “head versus heart” dynamic was so interesting to see! Personally, it was very fulfilling to experience tender moments while reading Sienna poems. I remembered how I used to love poetry when I was young, back before I repressed my feelings.
Finally, we got down to crunch time and Teo had to make a choice. He asked for help and I zeroed on in one option I thought he would benefit from memorizing. Acceptance is such an important virtue for “perfectionist” type people, so I encouraged him to choose a poem called: Whatever Is – Is Best by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. He liked it and is happy with his choice. Now on to the memorization process!
WHATEVER IS – IS BEST
I know, as my life grows older,
And mine eyes have clearer sight,
That under each rank wrong somewhere
There lies the root of Right;
That each sorrow has its purpose,
By the sorrowing oft unguessed;
But as sure as the sun brings morning,
Whatever is – is best.
I know that each sinful action,
As sure as the night brings shade,
Is somewhere, sometime punished,
Tho’ the hour be long delayed.
I know that the soul is aided
Sometimes by the heart’s unrest,
And to grow means often to suffer –
But whatever is – is best.
I know there are no errors,
In the great Eternal plan,
And all things work together
For the final good of man.
And I know when my soul speeds onward,
In its grand Eternal quest,
I shall say as I look back earthward,
Whatever is – is best.
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox