“Excuse me, Steve, we are not burn victims, we are survivors!”
I don’t know where it comes from because for the most part I have a wonderful life. Not a Jimmy Stewart, Wonderful Life, but a darn good one. Which makes it even more perplexing and even downright frustrating that I find myself having pity parties. Poor me. Too much work. Too little recreation. I invite me, myself, and I into a little room of pity.
About a year ago, I was in one of these pity-parties and it lasted nearly a month! At the end of that month I had been invited to go on a river rafting trip with a non-profit group. Their inspiring mission was to take at-risk or disadvantaged teens on a “four day experience” to discover adventure and be inspired. They asked if I would lead the group through a series of topics on personal vision, life dreams and how to set stretch goals. I agreed. But when I arrived in the parking lot to board the bus, I was startled to find out that instead of at-risk or disadvantaged teens, I was traveling on a trip with burn victims. Burn victims… I had never been around burn victims. I watched one-by-one as these people arrived. Some of these beautiful people had been physically transformed by their burn wounds. Some had 30% burns over their body. Some had scars covering 90-95%.
That Sunday morning in August finally ended my little “play small” pity party.
The next four days were breath-taking. Defining. Inspiring. The first day together, I spoke to them about discovering “their inspiring vision.” I mentioned how inspired and moved I was as I witnessed their courage and strength on the river and in the trip. I referred to them as “burn victims.” Right as I said this, a young man in his twenties raised his hand and said:
“Excuse me, Steve, we are not victims. We are survivors!”
I was taken back, “survivors,” “survivors.” Suddenly, I realized, he was right! No matter what the trauma, tragedy, or turbulence in our lives we have a choice. We can be either victims, which forever binds us to the event, removes our energy, and prevents us from forward movement. Or we can be survivors: people who have conquered the event, who have chosen to be bigger than event, and move forward with their life after the event. Playing Big is about being a survivor! It is about taking control of your life in times of hardship and choosing to move forward. Playing Big is refusing to allow the event to be your life, but rather recognizing it as a part of your life.
Here are a few lessons I learned from those extraordinary Burn Survivors who are choosing to PLAY BIG:
- Playing Small is choosing to be the “victim”
- Playing Big is choosing to be the “survivor”
- Playing Small is saying “I can’t”
- Playing Big is saying “I will”
- Playing Small is having negative self-talk
- Playing Big is having optimism and a strong voice
Playing Big begins with a mindset. A mindset that even when we’ve been burned or hurt or failed, we can continue on. We can turn scars into stars. It builds an emotional and spiritual capacity to play at our best and enables us to shake ourselves from a victim mentality. One of the natural leaders in the group, Rob, flies down each month to a military burn unit in San Antonio and meets with young soldiers who have been burned in combat. He encourages them. He listens to them. He weeps with them. He prays with them. He inspires them to be survivors.
We should all be Play Big Survivors!
Playing Big Tips:
- Practice Appreciation
- Look at your “defining moments” as not a time where you were lessened but as a time where you were recast for greatness
- Thank God for health
- Look to light the spirit within someone today
- Remember giving is special and it also begins the receiving process