If Just One Part Of The Story Were Different

If just one part of the story were different, nothing would be the same.

Consider this poem by Iain S. Thomas

“The Truth Is Born In Strange Places”

Joan of Arc came back as a little girl in Japan, and her father told her to stop listening to her imaginary friends.

Elvis was born again in a small village in Sudan, he died hungry, age 9, never knowing what a guitar was.

Michelangelo was drafted into the military at age 18 in Korea, he painted his face black with shoe polish and learned to kill.

Jason Pollock got told to stop making a mess, somewhere in Russia.

Hemingway, to this day, writes DVD instruction manuals somewhere in China. He’s an old man on a factory line. You wouldn’t recognize him.

Gandhi was born to a wealthy stockbroker in New York. He never forgave the world after his father threw himself from his office window, on the 21st floor.

And everyone, somewhere, is someone, if we only give them a chance.


I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

3 Comments to If Just One Part Of The Story Were Different

  1. Excellent. A friend of mine calls this phenomena “the sperm lottery.” Crude but accurate. Great thought that everyone is someone.

  2. I’ve often wondered what it is that makes someone a person that sticks out in the crowd, what it is that makes them “great”. I think there must be something about genetics in there, the “sperm lottery” as Andy’s friend calls it. But there are also cultural and environmental influences that are a part of the equation. Clearly, location and circumstance had as big a part in the make-up of these “great” individuals as genetics. I think that is Thomas’ point.

    But here’s a different perspective:

    How much of who we are is defined by our struggle?

    How many people end up doing great things because they were written off, and refused to accept their dismissal?, and how many more have been given every chance possible, yet refuse to rise to a difficult challenge in their life? That’s a question that can keep me awake at night, especially as a parent. I want my children and grandchildren to have every chance possible to be everything they can be, to realize their dreams. But how much of the satisfaction of realizing a dream comes from recognizing their failures, and the sacrifices made along the way? Am I doing them a favor if I make the path smooth for them?, or am I making them soft, ill-prepared to take on a serious challenge?

    There’s a line in there somewhere, at a different location for every person. The challenge is investing enough time, on an individual basis, to find it and with wisdom, to encourage and empower them – sometimes with a boot in the seat of the pants – to be all they can be.

    • Yeah, Bryan, I was also thinking about the real struggles each “great one” must have experienced along their path. I imagine Pollock was misunderstood and ridiculed for his artwork – and probably even told “Stop making a mess” on at least one occasion, though probably not in Russia.

      Of course, if Elvis had been born in Sudan and died at the age of nine, never knowing what a guitar was, the struggle wouldn’t have really helped. In that case, it’s just all tragedy.

      There is a line there somewhere. We are an odd blending of nature and nurture, of our circumstances and our wills.

      When I read this poem by Ian Thomas, I kept thinking about how incredibly fortunate I have been… and how I’ve likely squandered the privilege and opportunity that I’ve received—via the “sperm lottery” or divine providence or whatever.

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