As an adult, I was visiting my parents. I noticed my fathers suit had a rusty safety-pin on his lapel. I remembered as a child he would wear it, but I never questioned about why. Out of curiosity, I asked and he smiled as he began to tell me why. He had me count the many suits he had occupying two full closets, then he said to me, “You don’t remember my first suit, do you?” He reached far back into his closet and pulled out this shiny baby blue suit that had seen its days.
“I don’t know if you remember, but this was my first and only suit. I wore this suit every Sunday for years. I couldn’t always afford to have it professionally cleaned so, I would make do with what I had. I would press this suit with an iron every week. After many years of doing this, the suit took on this shiny appearance. During the years I would gain and or lose weight, so I would use a safety-pin to adjust my pants when they were too big. In my closets now I have many suits. So many that if I wore one every Sunday, I could go a few months without wearing it again.”
I then asked, “So why do you wear the safety-pin on your lapel?”
He replied, “I wear this safety-pin to remind me of where I came from. When I find I’m getting full of myself, thinking that I have become somebody, it reminds me from where I came. Anchoring me and reminding me to give thanks for where God has brought me. That my increased financial status does not allow me to look down upon others or feel that I am better. It’s the scar that reminds me and keeps me humble.”
If you are my age, you can recall as kids falling from skates, bikes or skateboards. Even though we experienced pain from our accidents, we would proudly show off those scars to our friends. As we aged and became adults, we proudly showed these battle scars to our kids, telling the stories of how they came about. Kids today, unfortunately, don’t have scars and the stories that goes with them. Xbox, iPhones, and PlayStation have kept kids inside and removed many scrapes, bruises, and stories.
My body has many scars but, like the safety-pin, it allows me the stories to share of where I came from and what I’ve been through. The ability to proudly display them and giving thanks that I made it through.
This was not always the case. Once, while speaking at Bath middle school, I spoke of hiding my fistula, being tired of people staring at the big lump in my arm. Of how people would stare at it, quietly poking their friends, encouraging them to take a quick look. Some would be brave enough to ask while others would whisper their assumptions about what it was. “It’s from doing drugs. It’s cancer,” they would say.
While speaking to the school, I informed them about my gifted transplant, and how I had scheduled the removal of my fistula. I hated hiding it and dealing with the shame of people making faces or turning their heads in disgust.
After my talk, I hung around to chat with the staff when a student approached us. She asked if I was serious about having my fistula removed. I answered, “yes” as she shook her head stating; “That’s your battle scar. If you didn’t have it, I would have never known you were sick. It validates the stories of what you told us of what you’ve been through.”
I’m again rendered to needing dialysis and I’m doing well while on the machine. I speak to others who are in my place, or similar situations, about what I am going through. Without going through these things, I would not be able to tell my past experiences of losing the ability and then overcoming. I would not have the battle scars to prove to others or remind myself of the valley of the shadow of death that I ventured through . These scars were helpful during my years of having a donated kidney. They were the safety-pin which anchored me; reminding me to give thanks that someone generously gave part of themselves to help me. To remember the difficulties before the transplant while reaching out to those who had not yet received a life saving organ. I do this by giving support and a listening ear. Carrying the message: ‘sometimes in life you will be hit with a situation that will leave scars, financial troubles, medical issues, or a wayward child.’ However, like the safety-pin, in times of physical prosperity, we can wear it on the lapels of our hearts. Giving me the ability to reaching out to others. It reminds me that during those uncertain times, how blessed I have been. God gave me the ability (even though oppressed) to stay stronger than the affliction.
Now, I look at my life of once again being attached to this chair. Except, this time I am much wiser, understanding how blessed I am to have the machine/chair.
In the Bible, all the great prophets are given affliction. Jesus with all his power and glory had to suffer, being beaten, scared, and killed. Apostle Paul was known to have great healing powers, but throughout his life he had an illness that was not cured. He was ship wrecked three times, stoned, and left for dead. Beaten by the crowds and imprisoned several times. However, through it all, the wounds and scars gave validation that he made it. Apostle Paul wore the safety-pin of faith and gratitude. Even though he had fear and pain at times during his life, his blessings carry him through. God made us a beacon of his power. This is why when I feel good and forget, I can look at the safety pins on my body and remember to give thanks as to where I came from and for giving me the strength to stay stronger than my afflictions.