Write Your Own Story
Most of the people walking around today would not consider themselves writers and yet, we all are. . In the late 1800’s an American from Georgia, using stories told by the African slaves on the Tutwold Plantation, published in an 1879 issue of the Atlantic Constitution “The Story of Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox as Told by Uncle Remus”.
These stories varied greatly from fairy tales that were popular at that time in America. Joel Chandler Harris would eventually publish nine books containing his Uncle Remus stories, three of which were published posthumously. They brought him attention and some wealth but also many fans, two of whom were noted authors themselves – Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling.
The most notable thing about Harris’ retelling of the African myths was his use phonetically to illustrate the dialect of the slaves from whom he heard these myths. To people outside of the southern United States, the dialects of the slaves were a new language.
Joel Chandler Harris did much more than simply articulate these African mythologies to a new audience. He published articles in the Saturday Evening Post that discussed racism. He and his son later published a successful magazine who purpose was “the obliteration of prejudice against the blacks, the demand for a square deal, and the uplifting of both races so that they can look justice in the face without blushing.”
Scholars, writers, and other learned “experts” still debate the legacy of Uncle Remus. Many point to the dialects, the differences in the myths, and the use of the South as proof of the stories’ illiteracy and nonvalue. Many others, though, use those same points to emphasize their value and strengths. The same could be said of mankind. Some of our weaknesses are the door to our greatest strengths. Likewise, each of us, as we write our own story, can turn that which hinders us into that which enables us.
One of the interesting things about these Olympics is that they have highlighted the athletes’ personal stories. From the swimmer and flag bearer of the Refugee Team to the women of the Final Five USA gymnastics team, one who was raised by a single mother and another who was taken from her mother and raised by her grandparents, these are young men and women who refused to let circumstance write a story they did not want to live.
One USA male athlete was asked how he came from abject poverty and disciplinary problems to the Olympic stage in Rio. “I drew a picture in my mind of what I wanted to become and I wasn’t gonna let anyone else dip their paintbrush in my painting and mess it up.” These athletes are doing much more than winning medals. They are providing inspiration to the world and to the young children for whom they are providing hope and opportunity.
When we become an active participant in our own lives, writing the story we want to live, then we make our ordinary existence into something extraordinary. We help not only ourselves but all we touch and who might see us or hear our story. Everyone falls at some point, slips down a notch, experiences grief and failure. A winner is not just someone who stands on a podium and receives accolades. A winner is someone who picks up the pen of living and writes their own story, giving to the world their best effort. A winner is someone who never gives up.