Many Things Well

They tell me I do many things well,
But in having learned to do this many things well enough
That they should have gotten this impression of me,
I have discovered this fortunate irony:
I have learned that I could do most all these things better,
And beyond that, that I could learn
To do yet more things well,
Should opportunity and interest ever align.

Now, the Master did all things well, they said.
As has got me forever beat—
Especially if this were a competition—
Which, I am thankful to realize, it is not.
What it is instead is a training session—
An independent study, it seems—
And I, being not nearly done with the course,
And hoping the semester is far from over—
Am a work in progress.

And when I say progress, I mean the actual sort,
Unlike so many who have subscribed to
That notion of “progress” in which they passively
Expect God to make of them whatever he will,
And in his own good time,
And who fancy it a sacrilege to work at it themselves—
Though one wonders just how much they would
Actually enjoy having mastery of the knowledge and skill
For which they suppose themselves bound.

And so I work
And learn
And ponder the results from time to time,
Wondering also at the quality
And the diligence
Of the pondering,
And asking frequently the question,
“What should Jack be doing?”,
And surely getting it wrong from time to time, at least.
And who can say for sure except the kind Master?

And I see that I am not nearly as afraid as in
My early years on this path—
That whatever courage I may have sown into the early trying
Has born the fruit of further courage for trying yet more.

As I age, my thoughts are drawn more and more to those who,
Caught in fear,
Or, perhaps,
In being simply unaware that there is indeed
So much more to be had from life,
Are not apt to try very much at all.

And I wonder whether their fire can be lit,
That they could dare themselves
To do many things well—
Or whether I might scare them off
By pushing or pulling them harder to try
Than they are willing to be pushed or pulled.
And I wonder whether simply leaving them alone about it—
Which is surely the social sensibility of our day—
Might in fact be in itself an act of cold neglect sometimes,
Driven by the same lack of courage in me that
I wish they’d overcome themselves.

And I have seen that the ones who seem to want it the very most
Are likely to thank you for the pushing or pulling—
And probably sooner than later.
But they’re not the ones about whom I worry.

It’s the timid ones who trouble me the most—
That they might see my attempts to light their fires
As attempts to burn them,
And that they might thereafter withdraw
And make themselves unavailable,
Even where they were previously attracted to come near,
Before they knew I would push and pull.
And what a sad irony that would be—
That they should be drawn near by the effect,
Yet repulsed by the cause.

The story just doesn’t seem right, though,
If it turns out that there’s just no way
To coax them out of their shells
That they might seize the day.

And so I ponder what it would take for me
To get very good at this—
At helping them feel safe,
That they might dare to become
What they might have become already,
Had they not been scared
Or unaware,
Or lonely in it all.

19650cookie-checkMany Things Well

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