Finding Beauty in the Ugly
For almost twenty years I worked with youth-at-risk who were part of the child and family services system. As a therapeutic recreation specialist, my passion was to help these kids see themselves as valuable, loveable, and beautiful through all their internal wounds and scars. In many ways, I felt like an explorer, setting out on an adventure to discover hidden treasures.
For the majority of the kids I worked with, their treasure, their gifts, were deeply hidden by layers of abandonment, abuse, neglect, and failure. When most people looked at these kids what they saw what was ugly; that was obscuring the treasure. It showed up in their behaviour as violence, crime, anger, self harm, drug and alcohol abuse. When these kids looked at themselves in the mirror, they saw a person who was a failure, unlovable, stupid, hopeless, and defensive.
And yet, there were times when whatever was blocking the sight of the gift disappeared. There was a glimmer of brightness. There was a spark that would catch my eye and I became aware that if I just explored a little deeper and got past my own assumptions and fears, I would discover something extremely valuable.
It was when these kids were playing that the shiny thing, the treasure, would reveal itself, if only just for a moment. For some kids, it was when they were creating art, for others when they were playing sport. Music was the spark for many, as was enjoying nature; climbing trees, canoeing, playing with a dog. For others it was in the quiet moments of writing poetry, teaching me their favourite card game, or learning a new craft.
It was my joy to be witness when the light shone through the darkness. I was ready with my mirror to reflect it back to the source, giving evidence to its existence. These kids needed to know that there was beauty within them in order to have the dreams and hopes for a future of joy and fulfillment.
With the perspective of an explorer and viewing everything in life as an adventure, it becomes a habit to acknowledge the ugly stuff and sift through it, to discover the hidden gems in all things, and share in the appreciation of life’s beauty.
If you have a story of finding the hidden treasure in another person, please share in the comments section.
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