Judy Brandon: Religion columnist
Because of some family records and oral family history, our cousin has long maintained that we are related to the famous writer, Mark Twain.
As some might say, that is “my only claim to fame.” But as a child, it was always a real thrill for me to say I was related to Mark Twain. I remember in grade school we were reading some short story by Mark Twain and I announced to the class that I was kin to him. I had a great amount of pride as I made my announcement because it meant something, at least in my opinion. I suppose I felt that if I were really kin to him that really made me kin to Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer in some way. The teacher was impressed and I suppose the children were to some extent. Talking about seeing famous people or being kin to someone famous always makes for wonderful discussion.
Some time ago, I found an account of my ancestor Mark Twain and this story addresses this fame business. In addition, this story calls for some consideration on a deeper level.
With his writings like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain’s fame began to spread literally throughout the world He was not only acclaimed in America as a great literary figure but his celebrity began to take hold even in Europe. As a result of his success, he traveled abroad because his great success in writing allowed him to journey to many places around the world.
This story centered around one of his trips to Europe. On this particular occasion, he took along his little girl. The youngster was just amazed that everywhere they went, they were met with crowds that came out to see her father. Crowds gathered at every stop to admire and catch a glimpse of her father. On this particular trip, they were even celebrated by royalty. In every city where they stopped throughout Europe, they would socialize and meet with the well-known and influential – from scientists to government officials to musicians to writers.
To his little daughter, Mark Twain was just plain “Daddy” and she had a little trouble understanding why everyone made such a fuss over him. She saw while on this trip how her father attracted hundreds of people, honoring him as a very important person of the day. Reports of his visits made the newspapers in the cities that he toured. Written commentaries tell about what kind of impression this trip made on the little girl. Toward the end of the long trip, she made the remark to her daddy: “Well, Papa, it seems that you just about know everyone in the whole wide world but God.”
I have seen in my lifetime that is possible to have scores of influential friends and associates and yet not know God. Some people are very good at “name dropping.” I suppose they feel a higher feeling of self-esteem if they think others know that they in turn are acquainted with someone important. Still some think that those aquatinted with those in government, commerce or entertainment think that those connections make their future secure.
A person may be acquainted with no one who is famous, influential, wealthy or powerful. But does it make a difference? Perhaps the words of the gospel writer Mark might be appropriate when thinking about this issue of fame and standing in this world. He wrote “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
It would be sad to make it to the peak of success in this life, have far reaching influence, be world renown, and still not know God. All that would make no difference on one’s deathbed. At one’s last breath, what matters: worldwide recognition or a relationship with Christ?
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: