• Wed. Mar 8th, 2023

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“Mother to Son” – Wise Words from Another

Life for ma ain't been no crystal stair

You can find serenity in continuing the fight, even when it gets hard.


This article is the second in a five-part series of articles highlighting wise words from others. Each article will have another set of wise words from someone and some of the lessons those words teach us. Other articles in the series include the following:

Proverbs 31 (Click here to read the article.)
Claude McKay “If We Must Die”
Paul Lawrence Dunbar “We Wear the Mask”
Maya Angelou “Phenomenal Woman”


I was first introduced to Langston Hughes when I was a child of ten or eleven. My father had a set of books about this guy named Simple that was written by Langston Hughes. The stories were entertaining, folksy, and interestingly political. When I saw a book of poems by the same author it got my attention and I began reading them and could not stop. More than thirty years later, I cannot resist a Langston Hughes poem. My favorite of them all is “Mother to Son”


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—
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 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.


As a child when I read that poem I was hopeful. I thought no matter how bad things get, you have to keep pushing and walking, pushing and walking. It seemed to me there was no excuse for quitting. I realized that life was hard. You could not be a little girl growing up in West Philadelphia when I did and not have an understanding that life was hard sometimes. At the same time, I still had hope that I could end up some place like a fancy Main Line neighborhood like Bryn Mawr, and I did.


Continued on page 2. Click 2 below to continue.