We have no control over the name we were given at birth but we have every control over what we will do with it. The following story perfectly illustrates the truth of that statement. I read it years ago and have never forgotten it. It’s the true story of two brothers that was published in the Chicago Tribune in July of 2002.
“One son was named Loser, the other Winner. One became a cop and eventually was promoted to detective–shield number 2762. The other fell into the life of a small-time crook, racking up at least 31 arrests before being sent away for a two-year stretch in state prison–inmate number 00R2807.
But for the brothers Lane, it wasn’t a case of their unique names sealing their fates.
“I went a totally separate route right from the start,” said Loser Lane, 41, a detective working in the 40th Precinct in the South Bronx of New York City. Loser, a star student and athlete, went on scholarship to an elite prep school–Pomfret in Connecticut–and to Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. Then he joined the police force because “my mom really wanted me to do this.”
Winner Lane’s life has gone the other way. Now 44, Winner got out of jail in June after spending two years in Southport prison outside Elmira, N.Y., for breaking into a car. He sometimes lives in Camp LaGuardia, a homeless shelter in upstate New York, shuttling back and forth between the camp and the city, trying to get his life on track.
Why did he commit so many crimes? “It’s just some situations I got in,” Winner said. “It wasn’t really for the need.” He declined to talk further about his trouble with the law. The brothers rarely see each other now. Winner will call Loser when he’s short on money, but they’re no longer close. “I’m a cop,” said Loser, who is known as Lou on the job. “And I have a way with me where I don’t tolerate a lot.”
It wasn’t always that way.
The Lane boys ran in the same circles growing up in Harlem’s Wagner Projects. Their names never aroused even curiosity, much less ridicule, from the kids in the neighborhood. “When you’re young you don’t know that it’s a bad name, and by the time you hit grade school, everybody knows you. It was a regular thing,” Loser said.
The story of how Loser got his name is simple. On the day he was born, their father, Robert, asked his daughter Dinelda what to name the new baby. “My dad comes home and asks my oldest sister what to name me, and she said, Well, we’ve got a Winner, why don’t we have a Loser?’ And there you go. That was it.”
In any case, by adolescence the lives of Winner and Loser started down routes as divergent as their names.
Around the time Loser entered prep school on a scholarship, Winner began his descent into the criminal justice system. He was first arrested at age 19, in September 1977, on a charge of recklessly causing physical injury. His first conviction came five years later, a burglary case on Long Island. A steady stream of arrests followed: domestic violence, car burglaries, trespassing, resisting arrest and at least nine arrests for jumping subway turnstiles. In April 1999, he was arrested for breaking into a car–weeks after serving 135 days for another auto burglary. This time when he pleaded out, the judge gave Winner 1 1/2 to 3 years.
After graduating from college, where he played football and wrestled, Loser joined the New York Police Department in January 1984.”
A wise man once said…
I was fortunate that I wasn’t given a name that I had to live down. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve done my name justice. When people hear my name, what’s their first reaction? Positive or negative?
That answer is solely up to me.
Think of names such as Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, Tiger Woods, OJ Simpson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kim Kardashian, Lance Armstrong, or Angelina Jolie. Some have always had a good name… others not so much. Some changed a bad name to a better name by virtue of a lot of hard work. Yet others started with a good name but lost it along the way, perhaps not realizing its importance.
I hope my name is a good name because it is a reflection of the person I’m endeavouring to be. I don’t mean my accomplishments… because accomplishments are not always a true reflection of a quality person. I want the things I do to be a reflection of the kind of person I am, and not have them define me.
I only have one life to live, and one name to live it with.
Here’s hoping it’s a good one…