I wrote a short piece for the members of my congregation in the church newsletter. By accident I learned that the piece was being used in homiletic classes in my seminary in St. Louis. Well, if it was good enough for theologians, it should be good enough for a wider public. Therefore I reused the article in a column I was writing for a Scripps Howard newspaper. I entitled it “The Ragman.”
Soon I learned that camp counselors and other religious leaders were telling the story without naming me as the author. So I took “Ragman” to the next level by making it the first chapter in a new book……
I read this passage with particular interest as I came to the end of this Walter Wangerin book on the craft of writing. I first learned of his Ragman story when I was in high school and the book Ragman And Other Cries of Faith had been recently published. It is one of very few books I bought at that time in my life and it has trailed with me through the years. I have it here on my bookshelf.
I’ve heard the story of Ragman told at various times through the years and rarely (if ever) has it been with any reference to the author, or the collection of stories that the book contains, and I’ve always sort of wondered about that – the telling of a story to illustrate a point, the source of the story perhaps unnamed, (and probably) unknown. And so I was interested to come across these paragraphs in this book where Wangerin uses his experience as the author of the Ragman story in his discussion on the Writer and Revision. Referencing his Ragman story he tells how “it began to appear on the web. People were telling the story as if they themselves had created it……” And ultimately he ends the passage with: “artists need to be paid to live and support their families.” TRUTH.
P.S. Edification or Demolition is the essay from that collection that has stuck with me most indelibly through the years.
P.P.S. You can see Wangerin tell the Ragman story here.