I have a scar on the knuckle of my left thumb. I got it when I was in 7th grade and it was the first of many. It’s very faint now 40+ years later but it’s still there. There was a kid in my neighborhood named John Coakley. He was two years older than me and he had a penchant for terrorizing younger kids. One day, outside a store in town, I came upon him pushing around a friend that was a year younger than me. I stepped in the middle and told him to stop it. He asked: “What are you going to do about it?” I hit him with a solid roundhouse from the left side and I caught him square in the teeth. Unfortunately for John, he didn’t expect that particular answer from a smaller kid, but he also wore braces and I think he assumed the unwritten law of “no hitting kids with braces” was in effect. It wasn’t. So the blow ripped open the inside of his mouth as well as my thumb. He ran off yelling at me with blood flowing into his hands. He never bothered us again.
All these years later, I have plenty more scars. Physical, emotional and even spiritual I suppose. I was reminded of it this morning when I got out of the shower and looked in the mirror. I had surgery for a separated shoulder three weeks ago so I have a beauty now. About 4 inches long, red and angry looking. It runs from the top of my shoulder down almost to the top of my chest. The result of another misadventure between man and horse.
I have some on my right shoulder from a Labrum repair, a few on my stomach from Gallbladder surgery and others here and there that I don’t even remember how they came about.
It begs the broader question: what are the cost of my scars? See, horseback riding is a contact sport. Contact with the ground, with hooves, with dicey terrain and gaps in my horsemanship. The Gallbladder scars? Bad eating habits. My emotional scars are from incessant worrying about my wife and children, the death of my father, mistakes, rejections, business failures and stepping up to do the right thing when I knew it would hurt my business and my finances.
But, now I realize that every scar means something to me. It’s the cost of standing up to a bully. It’s the cost of having the sense of adventure to get back on horses that invariably will throw you into the woods now and again. It’s the cost of doing business with integrity when others can’t or won’t, and those people will find the justification to call you inhuman, ruthless and worse when you show them the door. They will multiply your scars by poisoning what they can long after. It’s the cost of loving someone who won’t be here forever and that particular scar will be where no one else can see or understand it. That scar is on your heart.
I’m proud of my scars. I’ve earned them. They mean that I tried. They mean I stood for something. They mean I’ve loved some people and said goodbye to others. They mean I had courage and I wasn’t afraid to fall down and fail. And all those things put together ultimately lead to a successful life.
So, a big thanks John Coakley. I hope you learned something from your scar too.