Mother To Son, by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor – bare.
But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on,
and reachin’ landin’s, and turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you sit down on the steps ‘cause you find it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now –
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me
ain’t been no crystal stair.
Proverbs 1: 7-9 (KJV)
(V7) “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(V8) My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
(V9) For they shall an ornament of grace unto thy head and chains about thy
The poem, Mother to Son by Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes is a classic and popular letter of counsel and encouragement. In it, a mother passionately admonishes her son to stay life’s challenging course as life for her “ain’t been no crystal stair.” Today, life still is no “crystal stair.” How we wisely handle life’s tacks, splinters, bare places - “places with no carpet on the floor,” is what the book of Proverbs is all about.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The Original African Heritage Study Bible explains this passage stating, “To the African/Edenic Hebrew the fear (respect) of God is the first step in worshiping the God of Israel,” and “When African people consider God to be omniscient, they are at the same time conferring upon Him the highest possible position of honor and respect, for wisdom commands great respect in African societies.”
In Hughes’ poem, the mother tells her son, “Don’t you set down on the steps ‘cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now - for I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, and life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” Does the son respect the Lord and welcome his mother’s wisdom, or does he disrespect the Lord and reject her counsel? We have no way of knowing, for the poet does not provide answers to those questions. The Lord does, however, provide answers in the Bible to all questions. He makes it clear through Solomon in Proverbs Chapter 1 that following the godly instruction and teaching of father and mother will yield positive results, “an ornament of grace unto thy head and chains about thy neck. (v9)”
(The picture, The Virtuous Woman was taken from The Original African Heritage Study Bible. Proverbs 1:7-9 can be found in the St. Stephen Church Get Some Sense Month July 2006 Study Guide: A Thirty-One Day Personal Meditation.)