I don’t even pretend to be a poet. To be perfectly honest I don’t *get* most poetry.

Sometimes it can be breathtaking, but it’s very much hit and miss.

But ‘If’ is one of the poems I have hanging on my bulletin board by my desk. The other two poems are The Quitter by Robert Service and Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.

There used to be a song to the poem If. It was sung by Roger Whittaker, and it made memorizing the poem pretty easy although I still get some of the stanzas mixed up.

The poem must be over a hundred years old, and it rhymes and has a good message, so it was quickly dismissed as inconsequential by the intellectuals of its day. The literati are kind of similar to the church elders during the medieval period. They prefer texts that only *they* can understand.
But it’s surprising how much of that poem applies to daily life. I see examples where people need to follow its advice all around me.

“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”

Does that remind you of anything?

It reminds me of when the Reverend Wright flap came out and all the commentators on the 24 hour cable channels were ‘losing their heads’. I was surprised at how calm Obama was. When I saw the clip, I too thought he was a goner. No way was he going to come back from that.

And yet he did.

He gave that amazing speech, the text of which brought tears to my eyes. (I admit I cry easily.)

But it’s this stanza, I want to focus on:

“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”

Like many people, I have lots of experience with being lied about and hated.

What I’ve found to be my best course of action is to stay true to my course, no matter what plots people might be hatching behind my back.

When I was quite young, I attended an Islamic camp for young women. We were considered to be the cream of the crop, especially chosen for leadership roles in our community.

Unlike school where I was the only Muslim, I usually felt very at home with these girls. We attended classes to learn more about Islam and we played games and talked as well. I knew many of the girls well from other Islamic camps, but for some reason at this particular camp I was getting a strange vibe.

I goofed around a lot back then, but at this camp, I started doing something kind of unusual. On many occasions I stopped and apologized to the girls present for anything I may have done to hurt or offend them.

I did this constantly till one of my friends said that I was making a fool of myself always apologizing like that. I told her to just be patient. There was method to my madness.

Eventually the organizers decided to have an ‘air clearing’ session. We all sat in a circle and were to voice our issues. When it came my turn I again apologized for anything I may have done to hurt anyone.

Finally someone asked me right in front of everyone why I kept doing that. I said, “Well, I know that sometimes when I horse around, people can get the wrong idea. I don’t mean to hurt anyone. I just want people to know that.”

Right on cue, the girl who had been spreading rumours about me began to cry. She confessed to spreading lies and rumours about me right in front of everyone.

But actually, strategically, she had no choice. Most of them already knew. 

I guess mine wasn’t a very ‘clever’ strategy, but it was effective. It disarmed my ‘enemy’.

How can you spread malicious rumours about someone who’s always sincerely apologizing?

And I was sincere. It was obvious. People could tell.

Since then I’ve encountered a lot of people who say things about me but for the most part I don’t worry too much about them.

Even if they say their worst, yeah, there are some people who will believe their word about me, but if I don’t corroborate their assessment, if I don’t do anything to prove them right, then eventually the rumours and lies will turn back on the ones who are spreading them.

Most people aren’t complete fools. If you, in your dealings with people, keep to the straight and narrow, if you act ethically and professionally with people and try to treat people with respect and consideration, ultimately who are they going to believe?

And someone who is malicious enough to spread lies and rumours, won’t other people know that they’re like that?

Won’t those people take their word with a grain of salt?

I would.

It reminds me of when a friend of mine was getting married to a guy from a different culture. Many people in his family disapproved the match because my friend was outside the culture. She said to me, “I just know they’re talking about me!”

She said, “If I don’t talk bad about them, then I’ll get some of their good deeds on the day of judgment.” Then she licked her lips. “Mmmm, delicious good deeds!”

It also reminds me of a Pakistani saying that my father always shared with me. “The dogs will bark but the caravan passes.”