Friday 25 November 2016

Class Is In

My mother was a junior high school English teacher for most of her working life. She has been retired now for about twenty years, but she still has poems and plays and short stories and novels embedded in her brain, and when we talk she frequently references a literary piece that she is reminded of and that applies to the topic or situation.

When Mom mentions a piece, often I'll know what she is talking about because I went through the school system while she was teaching - at the same school, in fact - so I was learning the curriculum while she was teaching it. But every so often she will quote something from her own school days, or something her father taught her, or something she came across while she was upgrading her teaching license in middle age. 

This is one poem she referenced a couple of years ago that I hadn't heard before, and I like its message so much I am now a fan.

And it's been popping up in my brain lately.

The author, according to Wikipedia, was a "popular poet rather than a literary poet" but notes that "...  in her poems she expresses sentiments of cheer and optimism in plainly written, rhyming verse." I say there's nothing wrong with being a popular poet, if it helps make the world a better place.

(Thank you to this source for providing the poem, as published in The Charlotte Democrat way back in January of 1896.) 

Two Kinds of People
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

There are two kinds of people on earth today,
Two kinds of people, no more, I say.

Not the good or the bad, for 'tis well understood,
The good are half bad and the bad are half good.

Not the happy and sad, for the swift-flying years
Bring each man his laughter and each man his tears.

Not the rich and the poor, for to count a man's wealth
You must first know the state of his conscience and health.

Not the humble and proud, for in life's busy span
Who puts on vain airs is not counted a man.

No! The two kinds of people on earth I mean
Are the people who lift, and the people who lean.

Wherever you go you will find the world's masses
Are ever divided into these two classes.

And, strangely enough, you will find, too, I wean,
There is only one lifter to twenty who lean.

This one question I ask. Are you easing the load
Of overtaxed lifters who toil down the road?

Or are you a leaner who lets others bear
Your portion of worry and labor and care?

     *     *     *

I think it's useful to consider every now and then whether I am a lifter or a leaner. Just to check, you know. And maybe make some adjustments, as I've been trying to do lately.

Hope you enjoyed this literary experience, brought to you by Procrastinating Donkey and her mom.

See, Mom? I really do listen to you. (Pixabay Photo)

Happy weekend to all.


Joanne Noragon said...

I remember encountering those little poems tucked away in women's magazines. Do you remember 'Workbasket,' for instance. They were fillers; the authors earned pennies per word. The sentiments were admirable. I have one on my wall extolling work. Life is work, especially the lifting.

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

I Love, Love, Love this! Memorizing it now . . .
And what a treasure trove your mother is! And you . . .

jenny_o said...

Ha - true.

jenny_o said...

Thanks, Diane ... There will be a test on Monday :)

Mr. Shife said...

Definitely a timely poem. Seems like we have a lot more leaners these days but maybe I'm just turning into a even grumpier old man. Thanks for sharing. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

jenny_o said...

Twenty to one ratio even in the 19th century, Mr. S ... just saying. It's not grumpy if it's true! That's my story anyway. Meanwhile, I am busy trying to become more of a lifter. I've been getting slack the last couple of years.

dinthebeast said...

You seem pretty lifty to me. I Googled Ella Wheeler Wilcox and this is what came up:
"Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone".

Back in the '80s we got to hear Oliver Sacks speak in San Francisco, and what I remember most about the talk was his answer to a question about psychotherapy (it was SF, of course someone would ask him about psychotherapy.)
He said that as he was a neurologist, he couldn't endorse any specific approach to psychotherapy, but he did know that there were only two things effective at maintaining or healing a human psyche, and they are work and love. That seemed right to me at the time, and I have carried it with me all of these years since. Maybe that's the answer to how the lifters can maintain their sanity in the face of all of the leaners, and the worse ones who try to tear it all down.
Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

-Doug in Oakland

Elephant's Child said...

Sadly, this poem (or something like it) has been used by our politicians. They divided the population into 'lifters and leaners' and proceeded to punish the leaners. Sadly their definitions were flawed. They were the lifters, and the leaners they punished were the old and the unfirm.

jenny_o said...

Work and love are the two things that have always helped me, too. I think that that advice should be given to every child as soon as he or she is old enough to repeat them. Hope you had a good turkey day! or whatever your choice of entree :)

jenny_o said...

That is just so wrong. So very wrong I can't even articulate it better than that. Twisting good ideas into something that serves a political purpose is just wrong. I don't think your politicians are alone in doing that, either ...

dinthebeast said...

You're right. I believe Ryan calls them "Makers" and "Takers". I liked the poem, so I wasn't gonna say anything about it's main concept, which I have experienced in my own life, being stolen and twisted by evil men.

-Doug in Oakland

Terry said...

I enjoyed reading it. I don't enjoy poetry as a rule, but that one was different. A very clever poem.

jenny_o said...

Doug, evil is a good word for it - turning against the vulnerable of this world.

Terry, she did good! Glad you enjoyed it.

LL Cool Joe said...

I'm not a great fan of poetry either but I enjoyed this. Quite challenging. Thanks for sharing it with us.

jenny_o said...

I really think there is a poem (or poet) for everyone to enjoy. If I had to say who my favourite is, it would be Ogden Nash. I like my chuckles. :)

Chicken said...

Interesting subject, Jenny. I hadn't heard the poem before. I always thought of it as givers and takers, but I think it's the same thing. I think, in my experience, we're all a little of both, too. I have strong people I've relied on and I know there are people who rely on me. I was raised by a couple of lifters. I leaned for a long time. I had the example, so I knew what to grow into, but it didn't come quickly or naturally. People who are naturals at lifting are inspirational to me.

Margie from Toronto said...

Love this little poem - makes you think - and hopefully, take stock.

jenny_o said...

I know what you mean. And I think there are different ways of lifting, too. I find some of them easier than others.

jenny_o said...

Welcome, Margie! And yes, hopefully reading it leads to thinking and doing.