In the spring of 1974, I was 10 years old and we had a morning P.E. class down on the grass practice field. It was a beautiful crisp morning with a brilliant blue sky. Coach Grossman was a gruff man and announced, "Boys, we are going to form up teams and play baseball today." I don't think he liked having to corral elementary kids as it took him away from his high school athletic duties. A sense of dread filled my stomach. Being a smaller than average kid and very awkward athletically, I knew I would be one of the last kids chosen, as usual, by the designated team captains.
I did not having any experience playing little league baseball, or any sport, like many of the other boys. I figured I could strike out quickly and go to the end of the line and be back to my invisible self without much fuss. My humiliation would be very public but very brief I hoped. The coach lined us up in a line to bat and warned us sternly, "Do not to get too close to the batter so you won't get hit by the swinging bat." I was standing 4 kids back in line when Brett Henderson, a huge boy for his age, swings at the ball. He got a hit and took off running for first base. In a flash, something hit me in the face. I awoke on the ground, my face and head in burning pain and confused, not knowing what had happened. All my classmates were all around me. Brett had slung the bat and it struck me squarely in the right cheekbone busting open a huge gash.The coach ran over and chewed me out, "Johnny, what were you doing kid? I told you not to get in the way, now look what you've done." He said nothing to Brett who had tossed the bat. He was really angry at having to take this scrawny kid all the way across the school ground in his Ford Ranchero truck to the school nurse. My mother came and picked me up and took me to the doctor in Springfield. It seemed as though they dropped our name off the list because we waited four to five hours in this small office with very few people as my face was swollen and bleeding off and on. I thought, "Why was it OK for my mom to wait so long?" Finally, the doctor took a look and decided my face needed stitches and the bat had chipped my cheek bone. It had permanently deformed the bone and skin on my face. Most boys would have been proud of a scar like this but it was clear that I would be ugly the rest of my life. A handsome boys face should match on both sides. I would later stand in front of the mirror and hold my my hand over each side of my face comparing. I thought the left was handsome and the right was ugly and it bothered me for years that they didn't match any more.
Through Story Exploration:
This was a significant day for me. Besides the hope of beautiful blue skies, this day knocked me down and out. There were several key lies that were planted or strengthened. These are a few of them:
I don't and never will fit in
If I wasn't stupid, I wouldn't get hurt
My face is defective and I should be ashamed
No matter how bad I am hurting, I will be alone
The Truth: I was at a retreat in a men only Story Group. I tried to think about a guy story like sports and this was all I really had. When I shared it, I didn't have any emotion at all because all these lies have become part of me at the age of 53 as I sat there. However, these lies were so broken and undone just being in the group. I completely fit in with the group and they even made me admit that the group would not have been the same without me. As I had offered several key insights to other men that even led to breakthroughs for them, during my story time, they said, "How can it be that a guy that is 'stupid' can have such insight that the rest of us didn't." I was overwhelmed. None of them could even see an actual scar on my face and walking with and through our stories together, I was definitely not alone.