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“Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.”  – Rumi
Little girl in red coat - isolated portraitHow often do you hear people talking about going on a big hike, training for a marathon, skydiving or travelling to some place far away from ‘here’?

It is evident that the business of “adventure seeking” is booming!

While we crave the adrenaline, energy and perspective we get when travelling to a far-away places and overcoming massive physical challenges, the greatest adventure we can have is not at a physical location.

Rather, the greatest adventure is the discovery of who you are and the freedom that comes with it. [Tweet this.] 

Ten years ago I was given this wisdom while training to be a hospital chaplain. During training, I’d visit with patients and then debrief with a preceptor. The expectation was that with each patient visit, and then the clarity offered by an expert immediately after, I’d improve my work. During one of my meetings, I had to explain an awkward visit I’d just had with a patient. My preceptor, Dr. Davis, sat patiently and listened.

He then asked a few clarifying questions, finishing with,  “John, do you know what your story is?”

“Sure. I am married, we both grew up in the area, we want to have kids some day, and…”

“No, John.  Do you know what your story is?”

“Of course! I am one of six kids. My parents met in high school and are still married…”

He stood up, walked over to his file cabinet, paged through various articles, and handed me one. I read it.

It was about a little girl who walked into a classroom, took off her red jacket, threw it on the floor, and then sat down at her desk. The teacher called her back up and asked that she hang up the jacket.

The little girl looked at the jacket, back at the teacher, and said, “That’s not my jacket.”

Then a classmate said, “I saw you drop it. It’s the jacket you wear everyday, Mary.”

And the little girl crossed her arms, stomped her feet, and yelled back, “That’s not my jacket. That’s not my jacket!”

I finished the article and looked blankly up at Dr. Davis. He asked me if I understood. After telling him that I did not, he responded, “John, you can’t possibly help others identify what matters most to them if you don’t first know your story, what you’ve been through and what matters most to you.”

The red jacket — or story — that Dr. Davis was referring to was the experience I had as a child, being burned on 100% of my body and the time spent in the hospital and the physical challenges that followed. You see, at that point in my life I’d never told anyone outside of my family how I was burned. Dr. Davis was imploring me to take time to both understand what happened to me years earlier, and more importantly: be bold enough to actually embrace the scars.

For the first time I saw that I could not fully connect with others without fully accepting myself, first.  [Tweet this.]

During July we’re focusing on choosing self-acceptance over denial. So often the last person to really see and embrace the red jacket is the one who wears it every single day. My friends, it is impossible to lead your organization, classroom, family or self without reflecting on who you really are, the experiences that have lead there and vulnerably sharing your truth with others.

Picking up your jacket may not be easy, but it will always be worth it. Because where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure. And the only way to discover both is to have the audacity to return to the front of the classroom, bend down, grab the red jacket, put it on, and proudly proclaim it as your own.

What is your red jacket? Please share in the comments on my blog.

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0 replies on “What’s Your ‘Red Jacket’?”

John, this is huge. What a beautiful question to pose. By writing I discovered that by keeping my chronic hip pain a secret Because it shamed me, I had created a prison of my own making. But owning and writing about what I feared the most and had buried deep within allowed me to be healthier. I look forward to your continued reflections. Blessings, Mary

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.