Focusing on one’s strengths and the importance of persistence in doing one’s best.
Inquiry: Share the photograph on page 83 of The 8 O'Clock Bell, and read Steven Meyer to the class.
1. Why was Steven so easy to beat at first?
His disease, polio, caused him to rely upon special crutches. He had great difficulty in moving quickly with his legs, and he had to deal with wearing a heavy leg brace.)
2. Why do you think Steven never wore shorts?
He was most likely embarrassed about the thin and twisted condition of his legs due to the disease.
3. Why was ping-pong - also known as table-top tennis - a good sport for Steven to try?
Although the sport does require leg movement at times, it can still be played by anyone who works on their hand-eye coordination skills to hit the ball.)
4. The poem says that, “…when challengers came to the one they thought lame, shortly afterwards - they knew their place.” What does this mean?
People who came to play thought they would easily beat Steven because of the way he looked, and his apparent inability to play the game.
5. How was it that Steven was able to develop the talents of his eyes, hands and arms to the point that he was unbeatable?
As the line says, “…he practiced at home, in his basement alone” and with a sincere desire to be the best.
Additional thoughts from the author:
I was once a punter on a college football team, and after I had kicked a not-too-good-one in a game, I was standing on the sidelines with a teammate and I said, “I wish I could kick that ball 40 yards every time.” I was all at once surprised at just how upset my friend got with me when he snapped, “Man, those are the two most useless words in the English language!!” He then went on to say, “Nothing ever happens because you wish for it!”
I knew he was right the instant he said it, and I haven’t wished for anything since that game night, over 30 years ago. If my football kicking was ever to get any better, I would have to understand the difference between the words wish and want. When we truly want something, we work extremely hard for it, and we don’t give up. That’s why Steven became so good at ping-pong… he truly wanted to be great, so he worked long and hard for it. And by the way… I never made it to the pros, but I did manage to make my college coaches happy with some rather sky-high punts after I quit making wishes and spent a lot more time after regular practice to work on kicking with a friend. (Yes, the same friend!)
And along these same lines, I love great quotes, but I'm not one of those folks who have all kinds of famous sayings in posters all over my walls. However - I do have one tiny card that I have kept taped to my desk for years, and it has greatly inspired me time and again. It's a uniquely witty statement, and when you think about who wrote it, you will understand just why it is so powerfully true ...
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed, is always to try just one more time!" - Thomas Edison