top of page
  • Reverend James Squire

Wishbone, Backbone, Funny Bone

Photo by Taylor Neery


I remember it well when I was a child at Thanksgiving time during a family gathering. All the children wanted to battle with another member of the family to take one side of the wishbone to see who would be left with the biggest part of the V shaped turkey bone after the pulling challenge. If we won and got the biggest part, we could be guaranteed that we would be granted our wish.


We were little people and believed that wish would be granted. It was like our belief that Santa would come on Christmas Eve and that the Easter Bunny would bring tasty chocolates.


But we grew up and the belief in the wishbone was lost forever. Sure, we wanted to win the contest by getting the bigger part, but it was just that, a contest that was there for us to win, and for some, win at all costs. Me first!


St. Paul describes our growing up as “when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I will know fully, even as I am fully known, and now these three remain: Faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” First Corinthians 13.


One interpretation of St. Paul’s words is that we go from a wishbone mindset to a backbone mindset. Wishing that something would happen gets us nowhere as we grow older although some hold onto this mindset until their dying day. We experience that when we hear that phrase from ourselves or another, “If only!”  Hopefully soon we learn that a backbone is what makes for a life of keeping social justice alive and well in the world around us. Backbone or standing up for others is empowered by our faith, hope, and love.


Hope is different for wishing. Wishing is passive. Hope finds its path forward with its siblings of faith and love. Faith, hope, and love are active. They require us to do something.


That is where we leave the wishbone approach to life to live a life of acting on behalf of others. It gives us a backbone of courage made up of the big three, faith, hope, and love.


Maya Angelou said, “That we delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit changes that it has gone through to achieve beauty.”


Wishing doesn’t bring faith, hope, or love. Action does, but it requires not a wishbone, but a backbone which implies courage.


I have always been struck with the idea from Harry Stack Sullivan, the founder of The Interpersonal School of Psychiatry, that I always keep in mind and tell others when the issue of what it means to grow up is part of the conversation.  It’s one line that makes St. Paul’s quotation have meaning in our daily lives. When, like Paul, he was asked about giving away childish things and becoming a mature person, Harry Stack Sullivan said, “Maturity is the ability to put another person first.” Like St. Paul, nothing complicated, but gets to the heart of the matter because you need a backbone formed by faith, hope, and love to accomplish this.” A wishbone will never do!


This produces great joy and laughter straight from the heart, the deepest kind of joy that is an uncontrollable action such as when we hit our funny bone against an unexpected object.

15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page