If

When I was growing up, my mom had made a little plaque that she hung on the wall over the toilet in the bathroom.  It had this poem by Rudyard Kipling on it.    Whenever I raced in from playing outside needing to take a pee badly, I’d dance left and right in front of the toilet while I unzipped.  Once I was sure of my aim and I had a good steam going, I’d look up and read ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies……..

It was usually at this point that I’d finish pee-ing.  I rarely read any more of the verses that followed on the plaque.  The good thing is,  I had read that first part so often over the years, that today I can still recite it from memory.

There were times though, like when I’d wash my hands in that bathroom before dinner, I’d lean over and read some more of the lines.  I never could memorize any more of it, but I do remember the wonderful advice that a father was trying to give his son by memorializing it in this poem.

When I got married and got a toilet of my own, I asked my mom if she would make me another plaque to hang on the wall above it.  That’s what she gave me as a housewarming present.  I still have it today but now I put it by my sink, so I’ll have a little more time to read the entire poem as I shave and brush my teeth.

I do have a funny reaction when I read it though.  When I read the first line or two…I feel this urgent need to pee.

Here’s the poem in it’s entirety.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
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;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

-by Rudyard Kipling

About Wayne to the Max

Active writer, dancer, traveler, Christian and father, aviation enthusiast, photographer, music lover and a DJ, hiker, Harley driver and fine wine drinker. My digital photo artist page: www.WayneToTheMax.com
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4 Responses to If

  1. Linda Sickinger says:

    I love this one for the following reasons: First, this poem was a recurring part of our growing-up culture, surfacing over and over – right? Second, your Pavlovian bathroom connection is hilarious. If you could only hear me chuckling…

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