To my readers on this blogsite…
I have made a serious error and this note is to apologize for it. On Dec, 28 on this blog I published an anecdote about my son’s class of young school children giving a Christmas Concert nearly 20 years ago, with children holding up letters that spelled out CHRISTMAS LOVE. The story went on to say that one little girl had held her sign…the ‘M”…upside down by mistake…and so the words spelled out CHRISTWAS LOVE.
I want to tell you something now that is remarkable to me…and somewhat sad. I have been contacted by the author of that story, Her name is Candy Chand and it is a true story. She is a published author, and the story is hers. How could I have remembered it and written it as if it was my own?
The story itself was not typed up by me just the other day. In fact, it has been in my computer file for at least seven years. I went into my back-file the other day looking for the perfect copy to share on my blog a few days after Christmas. When I came across this story, it was written just as you saw it here in this blogspace on Dec. 28. That is, it was written in the first person, describing an experience that occurred with my son 20 years ago. As I read the old story I smiled, actually experiencing it as a memory in my mind, from my own life.
Now Ms. Chand has contacted me to inform me that the story is hers, has actually been published by her in more than one place (including a book), that it has been circulated around the Internet, sometimes with credit to her, sometimes not, for something like ten years, and that she would like due and proper credit for her authorship. I am embarrassed to say that her story and the “anecdote” that I attributed to my own life have apparently the exact same wording except for my personal introductory sentences.
All I can say now — because I am truly mystified and taken aback by this — is that someone must have sent it to me over the internet ten years or so ago. Finding it utterly charming and its message indelible, I must have clipped and pasted it into my file of “stories to tell that have a message I want to share.” I have told the story verbally so many times over the years that I had it memorized…and then, somewhere along the way, internalized it as my own experience. I am aghast at how improbable this sounds, even to me, yet I can find no other explanation for how this story came out of my mouth in Candy Chand’s words.
I certainly have no desire or reason to intentionally or deliberately pass off anyone else’s work as my own. Obviously in a blog that is widely read, on a website that is a global portal drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors hourly, I could never hope to “get away with” something like that. Nor would I have a motivation to even try.
I have heard of the mind playing tricks on us, and memory, too, but I have never experienced anything quite like this. I have nine children and I attended many Christmas concerts as a proud parent through the years as they each made their way through elementary school. I can see, much to my astonishment, that what I apparently did here a long time ago was remember this story as something that must have happened to me. Otherwise, how did the story get into my mind? It’s been there for many years, and I’ve told it for many years as an example of how a “mistake” can actually reveal great truth.
As a published author myself, I would never use another author’s words as my own. Yet I have apparently done just that — although with no deliberate intent to do so. As evidence of my state of mind in this regard, I have shared other stories on this blog and on the forum on my personal website, where I have actually said that I did not know where the material originated or who the author is, but that it was such a wonderful story I had to pass it on, just as it was passed on to me.
I did exactly that in my Dec. 24 blog here. Often, I have even asked the readers of my blogs if they know who the author is, and if so, if they could tell me, so that credit might be given. I did exactly that on the Forum on my personal website on Dec. 27. So I have a history of acknowledging when a story has come to me from another source, known or unknown. These things fly around the internet, as we all know, and a few years ago I encountered exactly the same experience, when something that I wrote actually came back to me five weeks later as the writing of the Dalai Lama. That does not excuse what happened here. And I am shocked to find that my re-telling of Ms. Chand’s anecdote over ten years’ time has made it seem, indeed, as if it happened to me.
My apologies to a fellow author. I take passing off someone’s else work as one’s own as a serious matter, as does Ms. Chand. I hope that she will accept my personal deep regret that such a thing occurred. I never would have believed it could happen. A thousand apologies. Abject and real. To you, my readers, as well. And to myself, an invitation for me to look at how the mind works. I am astonished at my own mental failing here.
In view of this error, I have offered to Beliefnet to discontinue my blog, effective immediately, as I certainly never wished to cause any embarrassment for them, nor discomfort or displeasure for Ms. Chand. I have enjoyed my blogging experience here and will miss it, as it offers a wonderful opportunity to place thoughts before a very wide audience. However, I do understand that Beliefnet needs to be able to rely on the accuracy of its bloggers’ postings, and in this instance I have failed to meet that standard.
Thank you all for your understanding, and I hope that you will continue to visit the Beliefnet.com site to engage in many lively explorations and discussions with its many fine bloggers.
Neale Donald Walsch