Who could have ever imagined that I would have the life that I have today? I certainly didn’t. Not lying in the burn unit lingering somewhere between life and death. I was sure my life was over, I felt hopeless and I was broken in a way that I didn’t even know existed. That brokenness is one of the reasons that I have the life I have today. The ‘accident’ drove my life onto another course and set me up for the ultimate indignity; Public deconstruction. My life fell apart on the public stage and it was pretty much laid bare for anyone to see. It had become quite obvious to just about everyone who knew me and some who didn’t that I really couldn’t function anymore. After many years of surgeries and a grave dependence on narcotics my life had finally crash landed. As someone once said “any landing you can walk away from is a good landing”. I agree. At least today I agree. Although I wasn’t really feeling all too positive about it back then, as I stumbled through the wreckage that had once been my life and sorted through all the fragments and pieces . Turns out it was, in a major way. I had been handed what would turn out to be the greatest opportunity in my life by some Divine Power, Universal Consciousness, call it what you want . Many people were harmed in the swirling chaos that I had once called a life and everywhere I looked I saw collateral damage. I had a lot of work to do, but thankfully I didn’t have to do it alone or all in one day. With the help of that same Divine Power, Universal Consciousness and a whole sh*t load of people I was able to experience a transformation.
A spiritual transformation that has led me to the life I have today. Spiritual to me doesn’t necessarily mean something mysterious or religious; although it does have some of those qualities. To me it’s simply the unseen powers that are both within us and outside of us. It’s about finding the Highest good in myself and others and using that to serve. I use the capital ‘H’ because I believe that it is the part of us that is directly connected to the Infinite powers that be. I also want to say that I’m really not all that spiritual for the most part, I have a pretty solid intellectual understanding of spirituality but when it comes to the emotional part of it, I have lots of work to do. As I’ve mentioned before many of the things that I’ve gone through have not been pleasant. As a matter of fact some of them were excruciatingly painful. But they have been fruitful in that they have furthered my own personal growth and understanding of me and my responsibilities to myself and the world outside of myself. My involvement in my recovery from the trauma of the burns that almost killed me and the drug dependence that almost finished the job has been my saving Grace. Sharing with others , whether in a group of addicts looking for a way out of their own wreckage ,burn survivors looking to heal from the trauma of their burns and reintegration into society or talking to someone in the supermarket who is curious about what happened to me, it’s all service.
Visiting a local Girl Scout troop a couple of weeks ago was one of my favorite experiences so far . After reading an article written ( in three different publications, two local and one magazine with world-wide distribution) about the work I do with wood I was contacted by a local Girl Scout troop leader who asked me if I would please come out and share with her troop of 4 and 5 year olds. I immediately said yes and I spoke with the troop leader, a lovely lady by the name of Christine. We shared our thoughts on the subject of looking different and how beneficial we think it would be to talk to children early on in their lives to help them understand some of the differences they will encounter with people in life and the diversity that exists on this planet. The other important issue we wanted them to understand is that when someone does suffer a tragic accident or is born with some challenging disability whatever it may be it doesn’t mean that they can’t have a happy and fulfilling life.
I stumbled upon this great wisdom as a result of a tragic accident at 20 years old., just a boy really getting started in life. When I went to the Girl Scout troop meeting I wanted to show them that I was just like them and everyone else. I just didn’t look like them. In order to accomplish this I told Ms. Christine I thought it might be a good idea to prepare the children by showing them a picture of me, so that they would be a little more at ease when I came in to see them. I brought pictures of myself to the meeting picture of me before the burns, after the burns, with my family, children ,wife etc. And some from my world travels. I also brought some of my woodwork that had been featured in the magazine and newspper, along with the magazine itself, Woodcarvers magazine. And I really floored them when I promised to show them something that none of them, their friends or their families had ever seen before. Ears in a box! My prosthetic ears which were hand-made by a former CIA anaplastologist named Robert Barron a very interesting and brilliant man. They couldn’t believe their eyes when I opened the small blue box and inside lay two perfectly life-like human ears complete with piercings. I passed them around so the kids could see them close up. I talked openly for quite a while and they sat and listened attentively to my description of what happened to me and how I recovered and what it was like at first and how it is today.
And then they asked questions. Some of them were eager to ask questions and I told them that they could ask me anything that they wanted too. Some parents were in attendance too but they really didn’t interact, most just quietly sat in the back watching and listening. After the meeting had ended a couple who came in late brought their son over and I sat and talked with them for a short while. It was very different from anything I had done before in terms of speaking to a group about my burn recovery, but just as gratifying. Maybe more so knowing that in some small way I may have touched the life, mind and spirit of a child before they became closed off from the world in which we live. It is our responsibility to give our children the knowledge that they need so they can do better in the future, than we have done in the past. Let us help them to not carry our prejudices, biases and those of the world with them, but instead to travel lightly with open hearts…..