Scars are tattoos for the fearless

This past week I had the privilege of being a camp counselor at a children’s camp for kids with amputations and limb deficiencies. Many people have asked me why I would ever do that and what made me qualified to work with such kids. I just tell them that I was called to do it. I have a passion for people, especially children. Many of the other counselors there were all employees of the children’s hospital and graduate students looking to work with prosthesis who were trained in orthotics but I knew little about the subject. I just knew I wanted to be there and help the kids and help them see their potential.

When I arrived I felt kind of out-of-place, and not very qualified for what I thought these kids would need. However, I was very wrong. The children ranged in age, girls and boys, with varying profiles and backgrounds. But, they all have one thing in common; they are all fearless. Their ‘disability’ and diagnosis did not stop these kids from anything. They climbed the rock wall, swam across the deep-end of the pool, zip-lined, played sports, ran across the field, played tug of war in a mud pit, participated in archery, and completed daily routine activities. They had a sense of independence and adaptation to what their own circumstance was and how they would overcome any obstacle.

The camp ground we stayed at has the slogan: “where obstacles become triumphs”, and that is exactly what each child did.

Each child and each counselor chose a “discovery” that suited them best. Some took swim lessons, come took cooking class, other partook in video production, and I was a part of the art discovery. In my discovery, we drew pictures, made dream catchers, painted a puzzle piece and more. But one hand written picture captured my attention, and my heart, in particular. It was drawn by an 8-year-old girl who had surgery because of her deficiency. The picture was titled “scars are tattoos for the fearless”, with a drawing of herself and the scar on her leg.

The drawing brought me to tears because at such a young age, she had this understanding of courage that many adults do not have. She saw herself and the children around her as fearless and strong. She grasped at 8 years old that her disability made her stronger. Her obstacle gave her the daily opportunity to claim a triumph.

While these kids are challenged physically, they have emotional obstacles to overcome as well. They want to have great self-esteem/confidence and they all want to feel beautiful just like you and I do. They want to feel pretty and “normal” (what normal is, I’m still not sure). They seek love, and they need other people. People need other people. Sometimes one of the girls in my cabin would say that she wishes she was beautiful. Any every time I would tell her that she was one of the most beautiful girls that I knew. Scars, prosthesis, and all. And I said that if someone around her disagreed, they didn’t deserve to know such a strong young women.

Generally, many of the kids at camp have a surgical scar of some sort and others have scars from falls or accidents as a result of the deficiency or amputation. But many of my friends, and people who I know have scars as well. Some scars come from self-inflicted wounds, years of abuse, or a tragic experience. And some scars come from surgery and physical pain due to illness or injuries. When I was younger, I wish someone would have told me that my scars were just tattoos of courage. I wish that someone would have told me that my scars make me unique instead of ugly or unattractive. I wish someone would have told me that my scars are a sign of strength. My scars are a part of my story.

I don’t think this message truly sank in until I saw it hand written by an 8-year-old girl at camp. She taught me more than I think I could have ever taught her in one week. She showed me what fearless looked like. and she told me the words I needed to hear.

Tattoos of Courage

Tattoos of Courage

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