I must share a true story that is so miraculous, so inspiring, that it must be known… I hope to lift your spirits and create a bright light for you and within you when you read this incredible story!Do you still believe goodness and abundance can blossom in the midst of challenging circumstance? As a child, I learned that there was wonder and brilliance, but I also learned the reality of intense sadness and pain in the world. More than anything, my parents wanted me to believe that good could prevail; they wanted me to believe that no matter what, even in the darkest of places, beauty and love could bloom.
When I was seventeen, I was handed a newspaper clipping. It was one of the most painful things I had ever read, about a little 2-year-old baby by himself in the closet of his home, playing with a Bic lighter (at the time, there were no child-proof safety latches). Within seconds the entire closet and all the clothes were consumed in fire around him; he was completely helpless. His body was burned so completely, the doctors didn’t know if this small child would live.I was so affected by this story. I remember the feeling vividly. I was touched and felt deeply connected with this little boy. I didn’t know what it was, but something about the story would not let go of me. It was one of those situations where you pause and think, “There is no good that can come from this. There is no reason. There is no way.” I felt hopeless. I carried that story with me my whole life and never forgot that little baby.
I could not have known that years later, at age 32, I would be burned. I too was consumed by fire all around me in an enclosed space. I was watching myself in a horrific scene – burning alive. I was trapped and unable to breathe when a total stranger ran towards the colossal blaze, kicked in the window and saved my life. The pain I went through was beyond my ability to explain. I should be dead, but I came through. I healed.
After my accident, I understood at the deepest levels the needs of other burn survivors. I was compelled to create a program for teens with burn injuries, and with the help of volunteers, my dream became reality. The program has been running for over a decade now, through the Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte, Colorado. The minute these kids get off the plane, there’s a jam-packed schedule. They go to snowboarding and skiing lessons. They go dog sledding, ice climbing, rock climbing and snowshoeing at night… The week is full of adventure. It’s an incredible thing, a privilege, to spend time with these remarkable young people; year after year, we’ve healed together. I’ve witnessed again and again how the right attitude changes everything.
One participant was an extraordinary young man named CJ. His face and body were burned in totality, and his fingers were gone except for nubs an inch above the palm, but he did have one knuckle- and a very charismatic smile. Year after year, he was the guy who would show up and throw a party for everyone. He’d play the music. He’d get the snacks. He’d spread the word. He was that person who walked into the room with such a quiet assuredness that you quickly forgot he was burned; his love just burst out of his body. He is in his twenties now and is an amazing person.One day I was on the phone with CJ. We were talking about life, brainstorming ideas, catching up. “CJ,” I said, “All these years I’ve known you, we’ve always had fun when we talk… But I never asked you what your story was. How were you burned?”He paused, “Did you ever hear the story of the baby with the Bic lighter? That was me.”
I was silenced.It took me two weeks to call him back. I was so stunned. I finally contacted him and told him how I knew of his story when he was just two. We were both speechless. There was love there. It was real. My whole life, I needed to know if that little baby was okay. Not only is he okay, he’s an incredible person. He’s my friend.
Even in the most painful of places, in the most tragic and horrific of stories, love and beauty can unfold in ways we never imagined. Life carries poetry. This is a reminder to watch for the goodness – to pay attention. Don’t let the poetry of life pass you by. Turn the pages of life with expectation for magic, because the miraculous is budding everywhere.
Written by Allison Massari