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Origin of 'Footprints in the Sand'

Many people have stumbled across the poem, “Footprints in the Sand,” over the Internet, in artwork, in magazines, and through other medias. The poem is one person’s conversation with God as the author is walking along the beach, and the author’s life is flashing before him or her. Whenever the author experienced a difficult time in life, there was only one set of footprints, but God walked beside the author during the less traumatic times in life. When the author asked why, God replied that it was during those difficult times that He carried the author, which is why only one set of footprints was visible.

This popular poem has been circulating since the 1940s its author credited as anonymous, and a number of people claiming authorship. But in the 1980s, the true author, Mary Stevenson, stepped forward and was proven to be the authentic writer of the inspirational poem.

Born in late 1922, just outside of Philadelphia, Mary’s young life was filled with difficult times. When she was six, her mother passed away and Mary had to raise her eight brothers and sisters herself during the heart of the Great Depression. At the tender age of 14, Mary had already been living the life of an adult, and it was at this age that she penned “Footprints in the Sand.” The poem did not just serve as her motivation through a depressing youth it helped her survive an abusive marriage, which she entered at the age of 16, where she found herself seeking refuge on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma to birth a son. Without the support of a husband, she became an adult dancer to survive, but because of her line of work, her husband was able to obtain full custody of their son.

It wasn’t until Mary moved to Los Angeles and remarried in the 1940s did she see “Footprints in the Sand.” However, she was not credited as the author. She wanted to claim her poem, but life got in the way, striking Mary with polio and a near-death experience for her husband. When her husband did pass away in 1980, Mary moved again, finding a collection of poetry she had long forgotten, including a copy of “Footprints in the Sand.” She decided it was time to receive the credit for writing the inspirational piece. A forensic specialist proved Mary was the rightful author, 48 years after she penned the poem.

Mary passed away in 1999, at the age of 77, knowing she was able to inspire people worldwide with her positive message of faith.
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