Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Youth

There are a lot of meetings in Japan. They seem to happen on a daily basis among all of the teachers in the Teachers room. I can't understand a lot of it, but based on the body language of the Japanese teachers and what I can understand, sometimes they don't feel too important. If I'm skilled enough, I'll manage to escape the teachers room to go play outside with the daycare children before the meetings begin.

Yesterday afternoon, I was doing some work in a different room when I was called to the teachers room. When I realized I was called in for a teacher's meeting, I became confused and curious, but hey, I tend to be that way most of the time here.

I'm not always sure if the meetings will last five minutes or a couple hours and this one was the latter version. But it was also different. At the beginning of the meeting, The principal (a woman, which I think is really cool in a culture dominated by males in upper management) appeared to be asking the teachers about some kind of "3S" statement, even calling some of them out about what 3S stood for (Smile, Speed and Smart apparently were the correct answers). About 20 minutes in, as I was minding my own business in the back of the room where my desk is situated, trying to memorize my students names (getting names like Hikaru, Hikara, Hikari, and Hikura straight is quite the task with 600 total students) the principal called my name and asked me to read something in English within one of the meeting booklets.  I didn't know what I was reading, but I began, with the Japanese teacher in charge of English reading the translation into Japanese after each sentence of my English reading. Whatever I found myself reading aloud as I stood at my desk seemed to be pretty wise words.

Last night I looked up the author of the poem. Samuel Ullman, a Jewish-American humanitarian, businessman and poet wrote it at the age of 78 in 1918. The poem became especially famous in Japan, when General Douglas MacArthur hung it up in his office while serving as the Supreme Allied Commander in Japan and frequently referred to it in his speeches.

But I didn't know this when I was reading. But what amazing words I was able to read to all of my teachers. (**It is funny to note that for many of my teachers it was the first chance they had to hear me speak fluent English, my English is usually less fluent and slower when I'm trying to communicate with my teachers. Very few teachers at this school speak much English.)

Below is the version I read, which is a little different than the original version.



Youth by Samuel Ullman

Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind

It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over love of ease.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years, people grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair, these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust

Whether seventy or sixteen, there is in every being's heart the love of wonder, the sweet amazement at the stars and the star like things and thoughts, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what next, and the joy and the game of life.

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair

So long as your heart receives messages of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man and from the infinite, so long as you are young

When the wires are all down and the central place of your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then you are grown old indeed and may God have mercy on your soul



Samuel Ullman