I have a scar on my left foot. It’s about an inch wide, two inches long, and looks like a fat minnow without fins.
The scar is a rippling reminder of a late summer day, nearly four decades ago, when I asked my big brother to give me a buck on the back of his bike to a friend’s house about a mile down our rural road.
He was happy to taxi me and my long pigtails flying in the wind to the desired destination. Somehow, though, as we were riding along, sun splashing in our faces, my foot got caught in the spokes of the back wheel causing the bike to jolt us off and twist my foot like a pretzel.
Nothing serious came of this incident. No broken bones. No deep gashes. But the top layers of skin on my foot were a hot mess and had to be thickly bandaged. I had to wear my fuzzy slippers on the first day back to school and the weeks following, because any other kind of footwear hurt too much.
At first, my injury and fashion statement got me a lot of attention from classmates. But soon, you’re just a girl standing alone on a playground in fuzzy slippers wishing you were like everyone else running around in Keds canvas sneakers.
Thanks to our body’s miraculous healing process, however, cells and proteins worked together to pull the damaged tissues back together. Before long, my wound healed, and I was playing Red Rover and Freeze Tag with the others like nothing had ever happened—except, of course, for my nifty scar that proved I got up, got going, and survived!
Wear your scars like diamonds, they say.
If only the healing process were as natural and easy as that when it comes to the tearing of tissue much deeper than the flesh—those wounds invisible to the eye, those deep lacerations lingering by words spewed, stones thrown from one human soul at another, still raw and tender.
There sure is a lot of stone throwing in the world these days. On the news. In social media. On streets. From bleachers. And sidelines. Behind structures. On campuses. In lunchrooms. Across service counters. In social circles. And, sadly, even in our homes.
Hurtful words and actions, and even inactions, can stay in our memories for years. Instead of bouncing across the surface, unkindness has a way of sinking into our murky depths. We’ll probably never know to what extent something we’ve said or done, or not done, will echo in the life of another.
I’ll never, ever forget an elementary school classmate of mine whom, for the sake of anonymity, I’ll call Ethan. It was explained to us by our teacher that he was “a little slow.”
Sometimes I’d see kids circle around and tease him on the playground. Not only that, but my teacher often isolated him from the rest of us by facing his desk against a wall and surrounding him with cardboard panels tall enough to cover up a fridge. “This helps Ethan learn better,” my teacher explained to us.
I knew something was very, very wrong with all of that. But I didn’t have the courage to say anything. Eventually, though, all this became public, the teacher was dismissed, and Ethan stopped coming to our school.
I don’t know where Ethan went or anything about the path his life took after that. My family moved out of that area for unrelated reasons months later. But I’ve thought about him many times in the decades since.
I can picture his face still so clearly. That expression of constant frustration. His long bangs, with his hair parted on the side, always draped over one of his watery brown eyes. Have the tissues that must have torn within him during those awful school days healed? Or have they gone unmended?
Although I was only 10 or 11 at the time, I’ve wished so often I would’ve stood up for Ethan, would’ve walked into those taunting circles and taken a couple hits for him. Imagine the widening, healing ripples that might have spread if just one of us classmates had attempted to do so?
I’ve been the beneficiary of much love and kindness throughout my life. But we’ve all been on both ends of the stone throwing. Each of us has come face to face with piercing unkindness, outwardly and inwardly, that changed the texture, probably forever, of how we view ourselves and the world.
As a mother, it pains me to know my children will inevitably experience some tearing of tissue and scarring beneath the flesh, too. But this precarious middle place of life I currently find myself in has a way of turning those experiences inside out and challenging me to see their purpose.
There’s a lot I don’t know, mysteries I don’t have the omnipotence to understand. Like what’s the purpose of all this heartache, betrayal, loneliness, and hurt going on in the world? And why do some of us skip across a fairly smooth surface while others get stuck in the merciless rise and fall of the tide?
I just don’t know. But I do know this: There’s infinite HOPE and LIGHT in our midst. And whether the widening ripples springing from us help guide this world to calmer, kinder waters or push it deeper into the storm surge is up to us.
Hi, I’m Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, now mother of three, freelance writer, editor, and co-author of HERE IN THE MIDDLE: Stories of Love, Loss, and Connection from the Ones Sandwiched in Between. I launched this blog, Carvings on a Desk, in 2015 to reconnect with my own voice swirling in the middle.
♦ CLICK HERE to read what’s inside the desk.