The Miracle of Love

The Miracle of Love

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

The Miracle of Love

A weed is but an unloved flower.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

David was ten years old when he came to my summer camp, and he arrived with a lot of “baggage.” He’d grown up with an alcoholic, rageaholic, abusive father whom David had repeatedly seen beat up his mom. David had a twelve-year-old sister who was very quiet and very good at becoming invisible, as many kids learn to be when they growup in such a home. David, on the other hand, became like a lightning rod for his parents’ anger and rage. He was put down a lot and hit a lot. He’d been diagnosed with such labels as attention deficit disorder, learning disorder, behavior disorder and conduct disorder. He was constantly getting into fights at school despite being put on half a dozen different medications ranging from Ritalin to Prozac. What we saw when David arrived at camp was a boy who couldn’t look people in the eye, who trudged around with slumped shoulders looking pale and angry. In short, he just looked beat up.

Not surprisingly, the first day of camp, at our opening circle, David got into a fight. He got the worst of the ten-second altercation, with a slightly swollen lower lip to show for it. Once again he was beat up and separated, a reflection of how he felt inside. Those first couple of days, David was tough to reach—resistant, distant and disconnected even from the other kids. But slowly he began to trust us.

On the third day of our group processing sessions, we got through. David talked about his dad, the abuse, his fear and anger and sadness. He began to cry, and slowly the crying turned to sobbing, deep sobbing, as he released some of the deep hurt and sadness he’d been holding onto for years. After that session, David was different. Some color came back to his face. He smiled, made eye contact, played with the other kids more. He allowed the adult counselors to “hang” with him. He just came alive. It was so incredible to watch him come out from his protective shell and just be himself. He was our biggest miracle that week.

The afternoon before the last day, when the parents were to arrive to pick up their kids, David got into a fight. He hadn’t shown that kind of behavior since the first day, although it’s common for our campers to feel anxious the day before their parents come. Anxious because some of them are going back to unhealthy environments; anxious and sad because they will soon be leaving new friends they’ve become so close to. We separated the kids and they worked out their disagreement, and then I asked David to take a walk with me. As we walked, I told him how proud I was of him for all the work he’d done that week; how open and vulnerable he’d been; how he’d been willing to trust us and let us in; how much he’d changed.

At that moment, this beautiful butterfly came fluttering around us and landed on the path right in front of us, so we stopped for a moment to admire it. I told David that the butterfly’s presence was perfect because in Native American folklore (which we had been talking about during the week), when a butterfly crosses your path, it symbolizes that you are about to undergo a big transformation (just as the caterpillar changes into the butterfly). And it was perfect because the butterfly was reinforcing what I’d been telling him about all the changes he had made this week. But David looked up at me with the old, discouraged look on his face and said, “What if the butterfly is not here for me? What if he’s here for you!”

Whew! I was momentarily stunned and my mind started racing, trying to come up with some great reassuring answer. Before I could figure it out, the universe, as usual, came through. The butterfly suddenly flew up into the air, fluttered around us again, and then landed right on David’s shirt, right over his heart! No words were spoken; no words were needed. But I’ll never forget the look on that boy’s face in that miraculous moment. It was one of pure joy and hope—hope that he could be different, hope that his life and future could be different. It was as if in that one moment, he internalized all the lessons he had learned that week. Lessons like: I can trust people; it’s safe to let people in; there are people who will care about me and love and accept me for who I am.

Sometimes I worry about campers like David going back to homes that are not as healthy and supportive and loving as they deserve. But I have faith that those magical moments created by our group sessions, our loving counselors and that miraculous butterfly will create a place in their hearts that they can turn to in those tough times, when they need to remember just how lovable and awesome they truly are.

Tim Jordan, M.D.

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