Scarred and Thankful

It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars
~ Garrison Keillor

July 29, 1979.

For so many years, I wished I could turn back the clock and relive that sunny summer Sunday——the day a simple bike ride turned into a horrific accident that left me scarred and forever changed.

I was twelve-years-old and I was on the same bike trail I’d ridden a hundred times before. Only this time, the culvert over a six-foot ditch had been removed. I found myself airborne, speeding head-first toward the sun-hardened clay below. Instinctively, I broke my fall by raising my left arm over my face. I heard a grotesque snap. My arm was broken in half at the elbow.

I opened my eyes and saw my sawed-off bone broken through my skin and blood pooling in the dirt. Shock engulfed me like a warm blanket as I rose to my feet and scanned the area for help. The closest house seemed like a mile away, but holding my horribly broken arm with my right hand, I made my way to a stranger’s back patio and pounded hysterically on the sliding glass door. “Somebody, help me!”

In the emergency room, the doctor told me my arm was shattered in pieces. He looked straight into my eyes and said, “Son I don’t think I can save it.” I blacked out. Five surgeries later, my arm was put back together. I was in the hospital for five weeks. During that time, doctors discovered that I had a rare kidney disorder. I would need more surgery. It turns out breaking my arm may have saved my life.

Eventually, life returned to normal, except for one thing: the scar that was left behind. It was — and is — pretty awful. I often go years without seeing it, and when I do, it still shocks me. Most of my life I wore long sleeve shirts to hide it. It affected my confidence and self-esteem.

Today, I have another view. I have other scars from other injuries and surgeries. My body is pretty marked up, but I am no longer ashamed. In fact, if I could go back in time, I would shrug off those feelings of inadequacy. I would choose not to look at what was taken from me, but rather what was spared. Do I ever wish things were different? Yes. Do I look at other people’s arms and wish mine looked as good? Absolutely. But I know now that scars are not evidence of imperfection; they are evidence of healing. Scars are a part of my story; proof that no matter what bad things have happened to me, I have been carried. I have come through.

What if we looked at all of our hurts in that way?

If you’ve lived, you’ve been scarred——some more than others. The hurts of the world are cruel and random. If you’re reading this, you’ve come through; you’ve been carried. Scars are now a part of your story; an indelible reminder that you are so loved that your wounds do not remain open.

And just like my arm, we do not need to remain broken. Your story, my story, is one of healing.