The Gift of Fire
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
The Gift of FireHow the Shriners saved my life.
They said I didn’t cry when I began to move what was left of my body. I suppose I slipped in and out of consciousness in my sanitary-yet-toxic new world of glassed-in isolation, skin grafts, and operations.
The Shriners Hospital in Boston was my permanent home for four months after the fire, and in the years to follow, it became my home away from home. I had nearly 80 reconstructive surgeries before my 18th birthday, usually about four operations each year, and would spend a couple of weeks in the hospital for each procedure. Mom and I flew in and out of Boston so often that some of the pilots knew me by name. But when I woke up on that first morning, I was simply known as one of most badly burned children the good folks at that hospital had ever seen.
If you’ve spent any time at all on a burn ward, you know that no matter how fine a facility or competent and caring a staff, it’s not an easy place for a kid to be. The Shriners Hospital undoubtedly saved my life, but the hospital stay itself was incredibly difficult.
You see, I was in an environment populated by children who were in unimaginable pain and horribly disfigured. Kids around me were frequently near death or worse—and they were awake and aware of their pain. Many had become overwhelmed by despair and had given up on life.
As for me, I experienced moments of equally profound confusion, loneliness, and terror. But my stay at Shriners was also one of the greatest experiences of my life. I had so much time on my hands, and I learned some life lessons as a child that most people don’t learn until adulthood, if they are lucky to ever learn them at all.
In those sterile halls, I discovered that allowing yourself to be defined by how you look—or by what others say when they look at you—is the surest way to destroy your spirit. And yes, it was at Shriners that I discovered that we are spiritual beings who are just temporarily wrapped in flesh.
At the time, of course, I was just a little kid and didn’t think about spirituality or life’s important lessons. In fact, whatever I did discover about life back then I quickly forgot; it took me years of soul-searching to “remember” that I already understood an essential truth of the universe: what matters is who we are on the inside, not what we look like on the outside.
Even if it did take me another quarter century of living to rediscover that basic philosophy, the fact remains that the lessons I learned at Shiners were the most formative of my life. They shaped the person I would become and, in many ways, made me the person I am today.