Okay

Author

Jaeger, Lowell

Genre

Poetry

Overview

Lowell Jaeger's poem “Okay” is told from the perspective of a man driving home from a trip with his wife and children to Hot Springs. As they are driving, the family encounters a man waving them down in the middle of the road, later described by the speaker as drunk, smelly, and blubbering. Yet, when his children see that the man is holding a bleeding dog in his hands, they ask their father to stop, triggering an interaction between the two men that explores the nature of shame, fear, and discomfort in interactions with those who are different from us. “Okay” evokes questions about poverty, service, and how/why we choose to stop – or not to stop when we see someone in need.

Full Text*

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Type

Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.

Themes

Connection and RelationshipCrisis and ConflictDiversity and DifferenceHealth and HealingIdentity and CommunityJustice and EqualityKnowledge and UncertaintyLeadership and ResponsibilityMoney and WealthMotives and ValuesPoverty and NeedPower and PrivilegeRoles and BoundariesServing and Volunteering

Big Questions

How should we respond to crisis?How do we respond to the suffering of others? How would we like others to respond to our own?What do those with more owe to those with less?How should we respond to people and communities in need?Is it important to set boundaries? Why?What are the limits of my ability to help or serve?Is my service effective? How do I know?When we volunteer for an organization, what obligations do we take on?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Why does the narrator pick up the man in the road?
  2. What sort of help does the man need?
  3. Does the dog matter? How?
  4. What help does the narrator offer?
  5. Why do the narrator's kids cry?
  6. What does the narrator mean, “my wife trusts me to be the man she hopes I am”? What qualities does that man possess?
  7. At the end of this poem, which of the characters are “okay,” and why?
  8. How do we learn to stop or not stop?
  9. Do you judge the narrator or sympathize with him? Or both?
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