As many of you know, I am spending this week at the Angel Faces Retreat as an in house therapist. Going into it, I knew that it would be a transformative experience but I had no idea what I would actually encounter. What I have encountered is courage beyond measure, strength that would put Goliath to shame.
For most of these girls the burn trauma isn’t the only difficult part of life. Oh yes, it is extremely tough to deal with the teasing and staring of other people, especially their peers. It is agony to never be able to do what other kids do, either because you are physically challenged, or because you’re scheduled to have, yet another surgery. It is virtually impossible to act and feel like other kids, because life stripped that opportunity from them on the day of their accidents. At that moment, trauma and change was seared into their lives.
But in addition to that, many have to deal with the burden of a dysfunctional family setting in which they are doing the work of a parent or a housewife. Many who are not even 16 do the cooking, cleaning and child care in their families. Entitlement is not a world that they ever get to explore.
Their lives have to do with an endless series of opportunities to prove they are worthy of even being here. They have been called every imaginable heinous name by others, including, “Burnt toast, burn girl, freak, weirdo, Freddie Krueger,” etc. The pain is immeasurable and yet every day they get up, do what is required of them, and try to prove to the world that they matter the same as you and me.
They carry the pain and burden of families that were forever changed by the accident that burned their daughters. They worry about their parents and don’t want them to suffer, while at the same time, they are going to school and being mercilessly teased and keeping it all inside in an effort to spare their families the pain of knowing. I had no idea.
In spite of these realities, I have never encountered a more beautiful group of beings. They are funny, brilliant, talented, and like all teenage girls, love a compliment and an opportunity to see a cute boy.
They work hard in the sessions during the day that ask them to confront their experiences and their pain. And by night they giggle, read, play guitar music and practice the make-up techniques that they were taught during ‘free time,’ by our resident make-up artist.
It’s hard to remember what life was like before this week. Right now my world is about feeling blessed to be in the presence of the raw courage required for each of these girls to suit up and show up every day.
My gratitude for the realities of my life has grown immeasurably. By comparison, it is so easy. Not one of these girls would ever try to make me feel humble or inadequate and yet I do. I can only hope that one day when life calls on me to be courageous and strong, that I can have one tenth of the courage and strength that I witness here on a daily basis.
I am so blessed. I know we all have our unique ‘crosses to bear,’ and they are never easy. But most of us can hide our pain inside. These girls wear it on the outside, on their scared skin. There is no place to hide…it is always there.
Please take a moment to contemplate your blessings and to express gratitude for them. Then go out and have a beautiful day.
I’ll be ‘flying with the Angels’ for three more days and I will be savoring every moment. I look forward to sharing more of this incredible experience with you soon.