May 26, 2016

Winning a national poetry contest may have been more a surprise for a Resurrection Catholic School sixth grader than landing a lunker at fishing camp.

John Keck, “JJ,” learned during the school’s morning prayer assembly May 26 that he was one of 10 winners in the Scholastic Reading Club contest based on country music singer Tim McGraw’s hit “Humble and Kind.”

Keck’s winning four-line stanza describes resisting the urge to boast about catching a fish. The contest required students to write about the song’s message: showing kindness and compassion for others.

Keck and his brother Mickey travel annually to a fishing camp with Dan Neff, whom they call Uncle Bo, a high school friend of their father who passed away in 2010. Mike Keck had begun the fishing tradition and Neff continued it. Neff’s son also goes along and throughout the weekend, they listen to a music CD Neff makes just for the trip.

This year’s CD happened to include McGraw’s “Humble and Kind,” and when Keck heard it, he mentioned the assignment his teacher Kim Ingram had given to her sixth and seventh grade students.

“I love poetry, and it was a good excuse to make them write poetry. It was only four lines, and it was a good message,” Ingram said.

Keck said he talked about it with his uncle. Then after the weekend, he called him and discussed it again.

Neff didn’t know about the contest when he added the song. Neither did Mickey Keck, JJ’s older brother.

Mickey told Neff to include the song for the trip, said his mother Kathy who also found out about the coincidence after the award was announced.

“Mickey said it was because (Uncle Bo) always lectures them about being humble and kind,” she said.

And the song, which includes words like, “Hold the door, say please, say thank you. Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie,” seemed to fit.

Keck was surprised when Principal Brenda Weaver made the announcement, and his mother was there to see his reaction.

“The look on his face was absolutely priceless,” she said. “That’s life. When good things happen to just regular people.”

Keck will receive a signed guitar and an autographed picture of McGraw that will hang in the classroom.

Here is Keck’s winning verse.

I went fishing with my buddy; he got a snag.

I had a fish on and tried not to brag.

I thought about boasting in my mind.

Instead I thought better and remained humble and kind.