Last week a good friend asked me why I act the way I do. It wasn’t anything offensive, she just noted that I am comfortable in environments that stress many people out. She stated that I am quiet and introspective even when the chaos closes in around me, allowing me to respond with (what seems like) clarity.
I smile because I don’t really have an answer.
It’s just who I am.
Each experience that we encounter, every obstacle that we pass, every tragedy that we face, and every scar that we bear bears witness to what defines us. Every person that we have befriended in our journey, every face that we have come in contact with, and every bridge that we have fought for, built, and burned to the ground has guided us on our path to discover who (and what) we are.
I can hear you asking, even now: What defines you?
Many things have shaped me into the man I am today: Moving every two years during my childhood. Being a part of a military family. Running away from God. Finding Him again. Missions Trips to Honduras and Uganda. Being Baptized by one of my best friends. My professors at Anderson University. My time aboard the M/V Africa Mercy. All the beautiful people that I met aboard the ship. My AmeriFamily. Joplin. Wildland Fire Fighting. Responding to Super Storm Sandy in Breezy Point and the Far Rockaways. And so many more.
Just about 3 years and a week ago, my niece and nephew came into this world as preemies. In the past couple years, they have given me something to fight for, to be an example for (not that they need a better example of strength than their mother, my sister).
A year ago, a beautiful woman whose courage and joy was the banner that carried her love to change each life she came in contact with, passed from this world, causing ripples to spread throughout the tight knit military family that she was a part of. She continues to be an example to live by through her children and the legacy she placed in each person’s heart that she walked beside. I strive to carry that same banner of love wherever I go.
In just over a week, it will be the anniversary of the Yarnell Hill Fire, where 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots perished in the flames. It hit closer to home, given the fact that I worked beside one of them two years earlier up in Crown King, AZ. His constant smile is a reminder of the joy we face, even when danger is upon us.
I was once paralyzed by fear. For almost a year, I woke up with the sound of a mothers cry piercing the silence, a memory of a child lost in Uganda. Memories and worst case scenarios constantly haunt me. At times I find that I am, indeed, afraid.
All of these makes me who I am.
I am confident because the past has allowed me to be so. I am quiet because the silence allows me to think and to process what is before me. I am determined because the banner of love is only defeated by indifference. And when the chaos swarms in around me, I know that if I do my best, I cannot wonder if there was more to be done.
There’s nothing secret about it, but the past makes us who we are in the present. How we act now defines who will be tomorrow.
As a quote from an unknown source states:
Don’t be ashamed of your scars; they are proof that you are stronger than whatever tried to kill you.
God Bless and PEACE