The late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar the story of Ben Hooper written by Brian Harbour in his
beautiful book Rising Above the Crowd. When Ben Hooper was born many years ago in the foothills of East
Tennessee, children like Ben, who were born to unwed mothers, were ostracized and treated terribly. By the
time he was three years old, the other children would scarcely play with him. Parents were saying idiotic things
like, “What’s a boy like that doing playing with our children?” as if the child had anything at all to do with his own birth.
Saturday was the toughest day of all. Ben’s mom would take him down to the little general store to buy
their supplies for the week. Invariably, the other parents in the store would make caustic remarks just loudly
enough for both mother and child to hear, comments like, “Did you ever figure out who his daddy is?” What a
tough, tough childhood.
In those days, there was no kindergarten. So, at age six, Ben entered the first grade. He was given his
own desk, as were all the children. At recess, he stayed at his desk and studied because no children would play
with him. At noon, Ben could be found eating his sack lunch all alone. The happy chatter of the children who
shunned him was barely audible from where he sat.
It was a big event when anything changed in the foothills of East Tennessee, and when Ben was twelve
years old, a new preacher came to pastor the church in Ben’s town.
Almost immediately, Ben started hearing exciting things about him―about how loving and
nonjudgmental he was. How he accepted people just as they were, and when he was with them, he made them
feel like the most important people in the world. Reportedly, the preacher had charisma. When he walked into a
group of any size, anywhere, the entire complexion of that group changed. Their smiles broadened, their
laughter increased, and their spirits rose.
One Sunday, though he had never been to church a day in his life, young Ben Hooper decided he was
going to go and hear the preacher. He got there late, and he left early because he did not want to attract any
attention, but he liked what he heard. For the first time in his life, he caught just a glimmer of hope.
Ben was back in church the next Sunday and the next and the next. He always got there late and always
left early, but his hope was building each Sunday.
On about the sixth or seventh Sunday, the message was so moving and exciting that Ben became
absolutely enthralled with it. It was almost as if there was a sign behind the preacher’s head that read. “For you,
Ben Hooper of unknown parentage, there is hope!” Ben got so wrapped up in the message that he forgot about
the time and didn’t notice that several people had come in after he had taken his seat.
Suddenly, the services were over. Ben very quickly stood up to leave as he had in all the Sundays past,
but the aisles were clogged with people, and he could not run out. As he was working his way through the
crowd, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around and looked right into the eyes of the preacher who asked him a
question that had been on the mind of every person there for the last twelve years: “Whose boy are you?”
Instantly, the church grew deathly quiet. Slowly, a smile started to spread across the face of the minister
until it broke into a huge grin, and he exclaimed, “Oh! I know whose boy you are! Why, the family resemblance
is unmistakable. You are a child of God!”
And with that, the young preacher swatted him across the rear and said, “That’s quite a heritage
you’ve got there, boy! Now, go and see that you live up to it.”