Intentional Wounds

Can you imagine the pain?

I’m sure you’ve seen the quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

I know from my own life that this is true. Let me share a story…

He was born in London a few years before World War II, and when he was only 6 years old was sent with his older brother to a boarding school in the Midlands to escape The Blitz, nightly bombings by the Nazi Luftwaffe that destroyed millions of homes and factories and killed more than 40,000 Britons. British boarding schools were infamous for their sadism and brutality, and his 4 years there were not an exception.

He was brilliant, clearly standing apart from others at a very young age. Both of his parents were doctors; his mother was one of the first female surgeons in Great Britain. And he would become a doctor as well.

He was intensely shy and suffered from depression at times in his life. He never quite felt that he fit in anywhere, and while he moved to America in 1960, he never became a US citizen. He preferred to call himself a “resident alien,” as that was an apt description of how he felt.

He was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, and when he finally told his parents, his mother told him, “You are an abomination. I wish I had never brought you into this world.”

Can you imagine how that felt?

This brilliant man excelled in almost everything he tried: medicine, research, writing, even weightlifting.

You know his name: Oliver Sacks. You may have read some of his books. And if not, you probably know that Robin Williams played him in the film based on his book, Awakenings.

I like to think about Dr. Sacks and the pain he carried throughout his life. It was worse than rejection really. It was his own mother voicing the wish that he had never been born at all, that he was a thing, a thing that caused hatred and disgust.

I often tell radio air talent that someone listening to them today is carrying this kind of pain within themselves. It’s not shared. It’s not voiced. But it’s there.

While not nearly as hurtful as his mother’s intentional wounding, each of us has known the loneliness of feeling different in a world that tries to enforce sameness.

Remember this when you’re doing your show prep every day.

Remember the people driving around your town hiding their wounds, smiling as they emotionally bleed out.

You have the power to say something that helps.

Not a full show. Not a 10-minute break. Just a sentence or two now and then to acknowledge a shared humanity.

You don’t have to be a doctor to provide this kind of healing.

You just have to care.