James Urbaniak (urbaniak) wrote,

Grand Theft Glurge: The Neale Donald Walsch Story


Total recall
Christmas Love
by Candy Chand, 1999

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations-extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in 10 minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song. Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment-songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title. Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row-center stage-held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her - a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down - totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W." The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W." Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:

CHRIST WAS LOVE.


Upside Down, or Right Side Up?
by Neale Donald Walsch, Beliefnet, 12/28/08 (Google cache)

God has wonderful ways of showing us the truth. Like when a little girl made a mistake twenty years ago that I vividly remember to this day.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
You get the idea.
New York Times, 1/6/09:

Mr. Walsch’s story was nearly identical to an essay by a writer named Candy Chand, which was originally published 10 years ago in Clarity, a spiritual magazine, and has been circulating on the Web ever since. Mr. Walsch now says he made a mistake in believing the story was something that had actually come from his personal experience.

Ms. Chand said she originally wrote the piece about her son, Nicholas, and his kindergarten winter pageant and published it in Clarity in 1999. In his Dec. 28 blog posting, Mr. Walsch, who also has a son named Nicholas, said it happened at his son’s pageant 20 years ago.

Ms. Chand’s essay was reprinted, with her clearly identified as the author, in “Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul” in 2000, as well as on heartwarmers.com, a Web site for inspirational stories. In 2003 Ms. Chand copyrighted the story with the United States Copyright Office. Last June Gibbs Smith, a small independent publisher, released the story, “Christmas Love,” as an illustrated gift book. The story has also been passed around through e-mail and on blogs, sometimes without attribution.

Except for a different first paragraph in which Mr. Walsch wrote that he could “vividly remember” the incident, his Dec. 28 Beliefnet post followed, virtually verbatim, Ms. Chand’s previously published writing, even down to prosaic details like “The morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down.”

On Saturday Ms. Chand contacted Elisabeth Sams, Beliefnet’s executive vice president of content and community, and on Tuesday morning Mr. Walsch’s post was taken down. “This blog chain has been taken down while Beliefnet investigates the ownership of the previously published material,” a brief statement on the Web site said.

In a statement posted Tuesday afternoon on his blog on Beliefnet, which is owned by the News Corporation, Mr. Walsch said he had made a “serious error” and apologized to Ms. Chand and his readers.

“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,” Mr. Walsch wrote. “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.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Walsch, 65, who said he regularly gave 10 to 20 speeches a year, said he had been retelling the anecdote in public as his own for years. “I am chagrined and astonished that my mind could play such a trick on me,” he said.

Mr. Walsch — whose first book in the series “Conversations With God: An Uncommon Dialogue,” published in 1996 by Putnam, a unit of Penguin Group USA, spent 139 weeks on The New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list — added that he would never deliberately copy another writer’s words without attributing them. “It’s not like I’m trying to find an audience or trying to impress anybody with my writing,” he said.

Ms. Chand said in a telephone interview that she did not believe Mr. Walsch’s explanation. “If he knew this was wrong, he should have known it was wrong before he got caught,” she said. “Quite frankly, I’m not buying it.”
From his Beliefnet resignation post:
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.
Mmm. Christmas fudge. "When I came across this story, it was written just as you saw it here in this blogspace on Dec. 28." Except for the fact that he cut the introductory paragraph that included the arguably feminine detail of the author's "endless baking" over the holidays and replaced it with a deliciously self-reflexive reference to "the truth." (The additional irony, at least in the opinion of this blogger, is that Ms. Chand's little parable barely passes the smell test itself. But I do believe she wrote it and with its implicit references to the War on Christmas, it is very much of its time. Does Mr. Walsch really want us to believe that he remembers being surprised by a public school reference to Christmas ten years before people started pretending to be surprised by such things?)

The events that Mr. Walsch claimed as his own would have taken place around the time he was working (nights presumably) for Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. (Mr. Walsch's colorful biography is here. Oops. I mean here.) Like others before him, Mr. Walsch would appear to be in the initial Denial period of the Stages of Plagiarism. I wish him a peaceful journey towards acceptance.


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