This song tells the story of three children whose strange experiences seem normal to them. Each verse is centered around one of these children, each of whom was based on someone lead singer Brad Roberts knew, or on his own personal experience. Roberts, who wrote the song, broke it down in a Songfacts interview
. We'll start with the first verse, about a kid whose hair turned white after getting in an accident. Said Roberts:
"The child in the first verse, that story came from a combination of events. I was in a couple of bad car accidents when I was a little kid, so I was fascinated by them in kind of a distanced way by the time I wrote the song. But they made an impression on me.
And I had heard a story about a guy who was also in an accident, only in this case, on a boat that was in Niagara Falls. The boat was going towards the Falls, so the people could see it as closely as they could, and then it turns away. Now, you have to turn away before you get carried off over the Falls! This guy made a miscalculation, and it looked like they were going to not make it back, and he realized, 'F--k... I'm going to die!'
It turned out that the boat did not go over the edge, and he was able to get back. But his hair turned from black into bright white. His whole head. And since then - although this didn't inspire the song - I heard other cases of that happening, including my great uncle, who was dug in on an island near Japan during World War II and spent a night entrenched, listening to the Japanese crying out in their broken English what they would do to him when they caught him. And he was terrified. In his case, just a portion of his hair turned white. So anyway, that's where that came from, in the first verse.
But the idea was this kid had something that made him stand out. And of course, when you're a little kid, if you're different, it's a problem. I don't know what it's like now, but when I was a little kid, anything that made you different made you a target: a target for abuse, a target for bullying, a target for humiliation. And that's the case with the kid whose hair turned bright white."