A Toast to My Brother Sam

The toast I gave to my brother Sam at his wedding.


Sam is a troll. He very much enjoys the reactions that he evokes from people, sometimes maybe a little too much. Only just a little. Most people say provocative things just to get a reaction from other people, but I’m convinced that Sam’s main motivation for saying the bizarre and non sequitur things he does is different.

A story that took place when Sam was around 4 and I was 6 describes our personalities aptly. We had created a pirate ship drawing on a giant piece of paper and taped it in front of our dad’s pool table to make a pirate movie.

My dad, helped to narrate by asking us questions, and at some point asked us where the plastic swords we were wielding had come from. Sam started dancing around me, while I tried to remember where the swords came from. ‘From Mick-Donalds!’. The swords had not come from McDonald’s, which I informed Sam, as I continued to try to remember exactly where they had come from.

To which he responded…

‘It’s a toy sword from mick-donalds!’
‘No, they’re definitely not.’
‘They’re from mick-Donalds’
‘No, Sam, we didn’t get them from McDonalds’
‘We got them from mick-donalds!’
‘Sam, NO WE DID NOT.’

Sam wasn’t really paying attention to me as he danced around me quipping ‘it’s a toy sword from mick-donalds!’. Though I suspect he enjoyed my vexation, I’m also convinced that his main goal was not to rile me up. I don’t think Sam himself knows entirely what his motivations are for trolling sometimes. But this is one of his greatest gifts. More than perhaps anyone I know Sam lacks ego. He does things for the sake of things themselves; he dances purely for the sake of dancing; he loves people purely for themselves; he trolls people because he has an ego-less love of idiosyncrasy.

Sam has a contagious enthusiasm and a sharp rhetorical mind which he uses to sell the importance of Jesus following, to cast beautiful visions for what life could be like, to recast your vision of what life is actually like, and to throw precisely calculated wrenches into the cogs of your preconceived notions in order to shake you out of complacent ruts. It strikes me as almost paradoxical that he is such a charismatic and visionary leader, but at the same time holds high people’s dignity and their right and responsibility to make independent decisions.

Sam has no respect for persons. Which is mostly wonderful but has gotten him into trouble on a few occasions. I mean that in the way the apostle James talks about ‘respect for persons’, telling us not to treat people better because of their social position. Whether you are 5, 15, 50, or 100, whatever your race, orientation, beliefs, or choices, Sam will treat you with dignity and respect. Sam has an uncanny ability to hone in on the right priorities instantly: he has taught me to value people for their own sake. Sam freely, abundantly, without reservation gives away his time and love to people — a gift of far more value than his money which he is just as generous with. Most of us, when we give our time and money to other people, attach hidden strings to our gifts and we expect some sort of reciprocation. More than anyone I know, Sam gives with absolutely no expectation of reciprocation.

Even though I’m the oldest child in our family, as we’ve gotten older Sam has become a role model for me. I have probably spent more time with Sam than anyone else here, and I think that gives me particular weight when I say that I trust Sam more than almost anyone else I know to be deeply, deeply good. For that reason his thoughts and choices hold tremendous influence in my life, as I’m sure they do in many of your lives. Tessa, I don’t know you very well yet for myself, but I know that you are an amazing, good, beautiful person, because Sam chose you. I’m so happy to have you as my sister and look forward to knowing you better in the years to come.

To Sam and Tessa.

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