Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Scars of Courage

     I remember watching sadly as my son had an extensive heart procedure done to save his life. It was a hard time for him and our family. He actually had to go back for a second surgery about five months later. The surgeries left some major scars on his chest. After a few more years we received a beautiful granddaughter to our family who has been challenged with the devastating disease of type one diabetes. A few years after she received the diagnosis she developed a flesh-eating bacteria on her ankle and it traveled up her leg to cause major damage to her skin. She could have lost her leg or her life to the threatening bacteria. The scars caused great concerns for these two young people. They were worried about what other people would think about their skin, but as time went by they realized they were wearing scars of courage and became comfortable with the new look they are wearing. The scars tell a story of how they passed very hard tests in life and they learned amazing lessons from their tests. Some people have scar damage on their feelings inside. They have had great amounts of emotional pain but their scars do not show on the outside.
     I remember the small pieces of bubble gum I would buy in my childhood years. The wrapper had these little papers with pictures on them. The paper had a sticky side to it so I could stick the picture on my hand. If I put water on the paper then the picture would transfer onto my hand and would be there for a few days. It was like magic! We called the picture a tattoo. It was fun for a few days but then I wanted to take it off. I started to notice people who wanted to keep the pictures on their skin for their whole life and it confused me? I asked myself, “Why would somebody want to wear pictures or words on their skin for their whole life?”
     I’ve thought about tattoos and the people who like to wear them. I’ve thought about the scars of courage my son and granddaughter wear and it makes me wonder if people who draw permanent pictures and words on their skin are showing themselves their scars of courage too? They carefully choose the pictures and colors of their tattoo to tell a story to the world. I’ve heard people tell me it hurts tremendously to poke the different colors into their skin. Maybe they have scars on their hearts and inside their thoughts that need to be released? Maybe they feel they need to wear their scars of courage where their stories can finally be seen?
     My husband has an Uncle Bill who decided to get some tattoos while he served in the Navy. His uncle was the most kind and gentle man I have ever met. He was a school teacher and taught many children throughout his life. Everybody loved Bill! He carefully picked the pictures, words and colors for his tattoos when he was young. The pictures and words he chose during his Navy years also included the name of a girl he dated while in the Navy; but they decided to take different paths in their lives and he was left wearing her name on his arm. He finally met the girl of his dreams and married her. His sweet wife realized she did not have her name printed on his arm because she knew her name was printed in his heart. Bill did regret the decision he had made to print the other girl’s name on his arm because of an impulsive moment during his dating years. He grew strong in character and eventually joined a church which taught the principle of keeping your body clean and unblemished from the world but he knew he could not get the tattoos removed from his skin. The other church members realized he was a great man and never judged him for his tattoos because they realized the tattoos were a part of the memories from his past. Bill had a wonderful wife and great memories he created with her. Some people would ask about Bill’s tattoos and he would tell them his story; he always appreciated those who listened and understood. Bill died a few years ago but his lessons of courage to overcome great obstacles in his life still live on in our hearts as we remember this great man. He no longer needs to wear or explain the tattoos because his story has been told.
     Maybe we can be kind to those who choose to wear stories on their bodies because they wear their stories for a reason and the reason could be worth listening to? Maybe the stories they wear from their past will become reminders of lessons learned and help them move forward to their future lives? It could be very interesting to ask about the stories behind the tattoos.
     Boys and girls of all ages, I’m not one to encourage people to permanently paint their skin or burn brands into their bodies and my kids know I discourage them from doing it; but if it is already there, I keep thinking about Bill and how he lived a perfectly great life along with his tattoos. It’s more important to love these most beautifully scarred emotions as they courageously surface to be seen. Have you ever asked somebody about their tattoos? They would probably be happy to explain their pictures to you, and if you listen with an open heart you may find something in the story to help you see life differently.

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