Setting the atmosphere

April 14, 2022

By Jeff Becraft


The following is a poem I wrote one Poetry Night with the students.  The local artist, Eboni, had sown the vision with us about what poetry should feel like and then, as in many situations, turned everyone loose. But there was one catch – she had a list of vocabulary words and you had to use at least five of those words in your poem.  Now, I probably should not have told you that and let you think that I am a man of such astute vocabulary. I wrote the below poem in about 5 minutes.

I have heard it said (not by Eboni) that fine poetry should not be understood the first time around.  (Well, that’s at least what I tell people when they say they can’t read my signature.  “A good signature is like fine poetry…”)  So I am supposed to let you try and figure this all out but so you don’t feel like you are back in high school English class, I will give you the context of what is going on here.

This was on a retreat with a boy’s ranch and a children’s home.  It was in the hot afternoon sun and in the sand and it was the boys against the girls.  The adults played with the girls (except for one traitor… I mean staff… who lived at the boy’s ranch and wanted to play with them).

I was at the battlefield
One side seemed self-assured, prideful, cocky…
but cautious in their support of one another, critical, acerbic.
They were restrained in their encouragement for one another;
their apparent indifference was almost withering.

And then there was us:
Joyful, stentorian, childlike.
Whatever action on our side that was taken
it was met with wild encouragement and support.

It was a joy to simply try.

Swaggering, strident, rueful – simply by
loving one another and being unapologetic
about showing it.
And we walked out the victor
… and the other team was shocked.

The other team (the boys) were much more talented and should have won.  But they were also very critical and condemning of one another and very quick to point out one another’s flaws.  Any time someone messed up, people were quick to blame them and put them down.  And for a side note… none of them were smiling or looked even close to having fun.

Our team, on the other hand, was smiling, laughing, and cheering one another on… every single play.  Even if someone messed up, we would be quick to encourage them, lift them up, give them high five’s and congratulate them on their effort.

And as the poem says… we won the best 2 out of 3 games… while having a blast each step of the way.

It was a joy simply to try… What an atmosphere to live in.  Let’s be people who set that kind of atmosphere.


Jeff Becraft is the Director Emeritus for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].