The Origin of “Footprints” November 27, 2007

The Origin of “Footprints”

You know that poem. The one that contains these lines:

God, you said that once I decided to follow You, You would walk with me all the way but I noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints in the sand…

And then God responds:

… during your times of trials and suffering. When you see only one set of footprints in the sand it was then that I was carrying you.

Maybe you prefer comedian David Cross‘ version (begin at the 5:05 mark):

In any case, the burning question that’s (obviously) on your mind is, “Who wrote this?”

Or maybe you added an expletive after the word “this.”

In any case, the poem is usually credited to an “anonymous author,” but several people have stepped up to take the credit.

Like this guy:

A few years ago Burrell Webb, a retired landscape artist living in Oregon, discovered that a poem he wrote and never copyrighted had become one of the most widely circulated verses in the English language. He says he composed the lines in 1958, after leaving the navy and being dumped by his girlfriend.

Forty years later, Webb was alarmed when his son informed him that the poem was on napkins, calendars, posters, gift cards, and teacups. Usually “Footprints” was signed “Author Unknown,” but other times the credit was given to Mary Stevenson, Margaret Fishback Powers, or Carolyn Joyce Carty, who have all registered copyrights for the poem. (Registration does not require proof of originality.)

Although several people have suggested to Webb, as consolation, that God gave the idea to multiple authors in order to more efficiently spread His Word, Webb is unsettled by the idea that “the Lord would be the author of confusion.”

We all know the Lord would never work in mysterious ways.

While the article goes in depth about the four people in the excerpt above, they’re not alone:

Along with Webb, Carty, Stevenson, and Powers, at least a dozen other people have claimed, less rigorously, to have penned this poem. None of their accounts are particularly convincing, yet they all seem to genuinely believe they wrote the poem. They describe the words coming out effortlessly, even uncontrollably, as if they were finally articulating something they’d always known.

There’s a lesson in this somewhere…

I can’t decide whether it’s that you should put your name on everything you write, or that combining God with beautiful scenery and loads of metaphors in your writing will earn you *lots* of money in royalties.

(via Bookslut)

[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, Jesus[/tags]

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