October 30, 2013
Opportunity to Achieve
The poems “Directions for Resisting the SAT”, and “First Practice” and the short story “Thank you M’am” all portray ones ability to veer away from societal norms and to take advantage of any given opportunity. Richard Hague’s “Directions for Resisting the SAT” focuses on ones ability to go beyond society’s norms when it comes to success, Gary Gildner’s “First Practice” reflects on ones ability to succeed in a new and unusual opportunity and Langston Hughes’ “Thank you, M’am” emphases the importance of doing the right thing when one least expects it. Each of these three pieces reflect on the idea of social norms and how a much larger opportunity can be found if one looks past them.
A large emphasis within Hague’s poem “Directions for Resisting the SAT” is placed on ones ability to go beyond society’s norms and do what they feel is right and want to do rather that what society pushes them to. Instead of letting the scores of the SAT’s determine what ones ability is, Hague is suggesting to his readers to “listen to no one” and do not let society define their success. Hague believes that the right thing to do is to have the “desire to live whole” and not let society turn you into someone you do not want to be or force you into doing something you do not want to do.
Gildner’s poem “First Practice” focuses on the coach’s willingness to push his team above and beyond what is expected of them in order to succeed. The football coach in this poem treats his players like it is the military as a way of expressing the opportunity that has been given to them. The coach explains to the team that “across the way, is the man you hate most in the world, and if we are to win that title, I want to see how” (19-24). The team is given such a great opportunity to win a title but must go beyond what they believe they can do in order to achieve it. Often times, when faced with a large and great opportunity, like in this poem, one often must go beyond what is asked of them and beyond what society thinks that they are capable of in order to achieve it.
Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank you, M’am” focuses on a woman’s ability to go beyond society’s norm of punishing those who have done wrong and takes the opportunity to teach the young boy who tried to steal a purse a positive lesson. Instead of bringing the boy to the police or getting him in trouble with his parents, she takes him back to her house and provides him with a meal and teaches him a lesson. In the beginning of the short story, when Mrs. Jones asks Roger if he would run when she let go of him, Roger replies “Yes, m’am” (Hughes, 507). He would have used this opportunity to run from his problems instead of solving them. Mrs. Jones, however, took this opportunity to go against social norms and teach him a lesson and Roger then took this as a time to redeem himself and prove himself reliable and worthy of her forgiveness.
I have experienced many examples of one going beyond what is expected of them because of the opportunity that is at stake during service learning at Tunbridge. This week at service I was talking to the teacher in the after school program as one students mom walked in to pick him up. The teacher told me that the mother works long and hard hours just to make sure that her child is given the life he deserves and is provided with ways to stay out of trouble. This mother is going above and beyond what she has to do and what is expected of her in order to give her child the opportunities that he deserves.