"Footprints in the Sand" is a dream where the author of the poem describes walking along a beach with God. As the person walks, she notices that scenes from different stages of her life are flashing across the sky, and two pairs of footprints appear in the sand.
The person then sees that at times the footprints in the sand behind hers merge together to become a single pair. The disappearance of one set of footprints only seems to occur during particularly sad or difficult times in the person's life, which is depicted by the flashing scenes in the sky above. Eventually the person asks God why there is only one set of footprints at times. God replies that those were the times when "I carried you."
Many different people claim to have penned "Footprints in the Sand." One author, Burrell Webb, even went so far as to take a $400 polygraph test in order to prove that he was in fact the author of the poem. Other poets who have claimed copyright of the poem include Mary Stevenson, Margaret Fishback Powers and Carolyn Joyce Carty. Each version of the poem differs slightly in word order, tense and line breaks.