My 20-year-old step-son, Michael, was hit by a car
. Twelve days in a coma. A shattered leg. Brain injury
. And scars
These things have now become his new identity. Sometimes he thinks he's more than he was before the accident. Sometimes, because of the lingering effects of the trauma to his brain, he thinks he is much less. And when he goes out, people see the marks, the splint, the walker, the eye-patch that he must wear for some time.
"What happened to you?" some of them ask, concerned and curious. Some simply stare...or self-consciously avoid looking at all. Others go out of their way to accommodate him, to make sure he is included, to see that he is cared for.
Because of his scars.
I watch this. And I wonder. We reach out so easily sometimes to those with scars on the outside. If only we knew more about the lives of others, would we reach out just as easily? Would I care more for the man in the bus seat in front of me if I knew he was going through an agonizing divorce? Would I be more attentive to the lady who just passed me with her shopping cart if I was aware that she had just had a miscarriage? Or if the store clerk was to suddenly turn and tell me that her father was dying of cancer?
How many of us, I ask myself, are without our scars on our heart and soul? The answer comes quickly: None. Those of us without scars are those who have not lived a life.
Would I care more? Would I be more attentive? As a young man I might have turned and run...or I might have been like those who glance at Michael and quickly turn away.
I think now, however, that I would find a way to give love, to stay all night, if necessary, to hear the story behind the scars. You see, so many tales need to be told, and all too often there is no one to hear. I've found that when you open yourself to others, they will often show their scars to you. When they do, you realize it's something you needed to see. It's something that makes you fully realize that you're talking to someone who is just as human, just as essential, just as vibrant and alive as you are.
And just as I need to hear the stories, I need to tell them, too. We all do. Michael can't hide the scars on his face. He doesn't even try. As far as I'm concerned, he can wear them with honor, because they're a symbol of his triumph over the greatest adversity of his life. Someday, he'll learn that the same thing also goes for his scars inside...as I am learning now. Scars are only a persistent memory of our greatest lessons. We should wear them well.