I am a 26 year old burn survivor, philanthropist, entertainer, and inspirational speaker. Though I would love to share my whole story, I rather focus on one key aspect of humanity. It is something that shakes the very foundation of an individual and can create powerful change in a person’s life. What I would like to share with you is called inspiration. Inspiration is more than creating a positive outlook or igniting an individual’s ability to feel something, it’s hope. Inspiration at its core presents an idea that may or may not be an original thought, but is laid out in a way that resonates with those willing to receive it. Let me explain:
My story begins when I am two years old. Here I am in my parents bedroom, watching television with my mother, when I get the sudden urge to seek adventure. I quietly make my way out of the bedroom undetected and begin walking down the long hallway that leads towards the kitchen. In the kitchen, my father is dicing away and preparing a meal for the barbecue. His focus and position in the corner of the room make it ideal for me to get by him undetected. I begin walking outside and start playing with my toys. As my thirst for adventure subsides, I begin my trek back towards the house. All the while, there is a large barbecue with wooden panels positioned along the pathway. As I am walking toward the house, I accidentally stumble into the barbecue, knocking over a bottle of lighter fluid in the process. I place my hands on my eyes, not knowing what is making them sting, start having trouble breathing, and begin trying to rub away this peculiar fluid drenching me. I am getting more and more wet by the second, when all of a sudden, my life completely changes. A small ember makes its way down onto my body, igniting the lighter upon contact. I burst into flames and yell hysterically as the pain surges through my body. My father comes rushing out, and does all he can to put me out. Burning his arm in the process. Eventually the ambulance arrives and they are rushing me to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. I am quickly brought in. After an hour or so, the doctors come towards my parents and tell them there is a large possibility that I would not survive. Thanks to the great care there, I am able to recover over the next three months from first, second, and third degree burns covering 55% of my body.
Though my story might sound terrible and I would not wish it upon anyone, it turned out to be my gift. My wounds became my gift. Thanks to all the support from family, friends, loved ones, hospital staff, and burn foundations, I was able to get through the most challenging parts of life. As I grew, developed my personality, and started becoming the person I always wanted to become, I saw an opportunity to give back. I am very fortunate to be where I am today and the sad thing is, many people don’t get access to the support system I had growing up. Where I had once been a survivor with wounds in need of healing, I grew into a strong person who could help others heal.
The point I want to get across is beautifully explained by the Lebanese philosopher, Khalil Gibran, and he says, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” By sharing our scars, we make others more willing to share theirs, ultimately creating a deeper human connection. Thereby, instilling courage in others to share their stories and overcome barriers in their life. In contrast, where we hide our scars, we become more lonely and isolated. Our wounds are our gift, and if used right, can be a gift to not only ourselves, but also all those around us. It inspires hope in others and shows them that they can get through life’s challenges, ultimately giving them the power to live life to their design.
So I challenge you today to aspire to inspire, to take a chance, and see how your authentic self is the gift to the world.
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