Invisible Band-Aids

As society modernized, people found themselves able to live independently from any communal group.
A person living in a modern city or a suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day—or an entire life—mostly encountering complete strangers.
They can be surrounded by others and yet feel deeply, dangerously alone.
Sebastian Junger in Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

I was unloading groceries last week.

As usual, I was trying to make as few trips as possible from the car to the house.

In my haste, I scraped my knuckles against the metal of the car. It hurt. I bled.


As the week went by, I kept re-injuring my wound. Who knew how often we unintentionally rub our knuckles against things all day long?

So I started wearing a band-aid to protect the scabs.

When I showed up on Thursday to read to Jenna’s kindergarten students, what did they notice first? My band-aid.

With oohs and ahs, they’d say, “You have a band-aid! Why???

But not all wounds come with a band-aid.

And so they go unnoticed.

Jay (not his real name) is one of the young men that Kay and I deliver meals to each week. He has a chronic illness, but you’d not know it by looking. Only when Jay began losing weight and looking more pale did we realize he was getting sicker.

When we asked, Jay told us how sick he really was. And equally as important, he told us how tired he was of being sick. To the point of suicide.

Invisible wounds are often carried in isolation. What can’t be seen is often not shared. And not given treatment as quickly or thoroughly as a more visible ailment.

I sometimes wish our bodies came with outer gauges:

  • “Has a headache”
  • “Didn’t sleep well last night”
  • “Joints are hurting”

Visible signs of pain might help us be more gentle with each other.

Instead, we have to pay closer attention to more subtle clues, the invisible band-aids, like slower steps or shorter answers or change in weight.

And we have to ask questions, genuinely listening for the answers.

We didn’t have any solutions for Jay’s illness or his depression. But we could at least listen, offer prayers for relief, and let him know he is not alone.

While wounds may sometimes be invisible, people should not be.

I continue wearing a band-aid on my knuckles. If I still need it next Thursday, I’ll try to replace it with a cuter one for the kids.

Because they will notice. Then they will ask.

May we be more like the kids.

* * *

What tips you off to someone else’s pain? How can you tell they are hurting? Please share in the comments.

47 thoughts on “Invisible Band-Aids

  1. Nicole Kauffman

    I can’t tell you how much this spoke to me today. As one who suffers from an “invisible illness” I can SO relate to wishing that our bodies came with outside gauges. I love your call to be more like the children. To spend time paying attention and asking questions. Thank you SO much for sharing this. I’m definitely going to be sharing with others!! 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad this speaks to you, Nicole. We likely have no clue of how many people around us are suffering quietly with invisible illnesses. I’m sorry you are one of them, too. 🙁 Thanks for sharing.

  2. Barbara H.

    You know, I had a similar post I wanted to publish today from a slightly different angle (lessons learned from having a broken toe, one of them being the need for a broken member to be supported, applying that to spiritual wounds), but I didn’t feel it was ready yet, so I posted something else. Maybe one reason for that was so I could reference and link to this one if I ever publish mine. 🙂 I’ve often wished with internals hurts that there was a way to signal others without sounding like we’re seeking attention or being a hypochondriac, but I think the clue is what you’ve said: ‘pay closer attention to more subtle clues.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll look forward to reading your post, Barbara! I know you’ll have some great insights. This is a hard subject, both to live with and to talk about, without sounding like a whiner or a hypochondriac, but no one should have to suffer alone.

  3. Linda Stoll

    Oh to be wiser, more discerning, better listeners, quicker to pay attention to those who are crying out for help oh so silently.

    Scars run deep in places we can not see.

    Appreciate you and your guidance, Lisa …

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, scars do run deep and often go unnoticed. Or at least unspoken. I appreciate you, too, Linda. I know you’ve spent a lifetime listening and helping others heal from wounds.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Praying your husband is recovering well from his surgery, Susan! I’m guessing he likely had some “invisible” pain that led to having his gall bladder removed. Blessings to you as you help him recover.

  4. Lesley

    So true, we never really know what someone else is going through or what they might be struggling with if we just look at things on a surface level. It’s so important to take time to stop and listen and notice- and I agree there is a lot we can learn from children.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Isn’t it easy to just say, “How are you?” and move right along, hardly even waiting for an answer. I’m guilty of doing that, but I want to do better. Thanks for sharing, Lesley.

  5. Dianna McBride

    There are so many people like Jay all around us, Lisa, and it is just as you say, we need to become more attentive to recognize the signs. So often we ask someone how they are and before they can respond we’ve moved on to the next thing we want to say. These words, “And we have to ask questions, genuinely listening for the answers” is what really stood out to me as I read here. I am working on that one, for I know that I fall short in that area at times. Thanks, Lisa, for a wonderful and as always, thought provoking post.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, sweet friend. I can imagine that you are one of those women who genuinely do listen when you’re speaking with others. I appreciate how you “listen” online. So glad to see you back in the blogging world!

  6. Trudy

    I smiled when you said the kids immediately noticed your bandaid, Lisa. Yes, leave it to children to notice. 🙂 You have such a loving heart for what others suffer. How true your words – “While wounds may sometimes be invisible, people should not be.” Amen! Love and hugs!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The kids were really funny in how quickly they noticed the bandaid and commented on it. ha. Granted, I need to give adults some credit too—I had a few of my friends who asked as well. Some wounds are easier to ask about than others; a hand wound is usually a safe area to ask about. 🙂

  7. Ruth

    I love your humor, the cartoon, and the suggestion of having outer gauges!
    Of course, the people who want to hide their weaknesses would then have to figure out a way to short-circuit the gauges. 🙂
    And you’re right; there are certain things about childhood that should be revisited, and caring about other people’s “owies” is one of them.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, you bring up a great point, Ruth: sometimes we don’t want our wounds to be seen, so we’d have to rig our gauges. haha. I’m guilty of being on that side as well. But that’s another thing kids get right—they usually make no attempt to hide what’s hurting. So much to learn from them. Thanks for sharing!

  8. June

    We humans run on extremes, don’t we? Those who have no filters (and ask the inappropriate questions) to those who don’t see, don’t want to see and wouldn’t care if they did see. Only when we come from a place of true love and compassion do we get the balance right. Great story, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, June—there’s definitely a spectrum out there, running from one extreme to the other. I remember as my mother got deeper into Alzheimer’s, her filters changed. We never knew what she might say to a friend or to a stranger. 🙂 May God help us all find the correct balance to appropriately minister to others!

  9. Pam

    Love this post, Lisa! Your descriptions really struck me. One reason is that I ALWAYS try to bring everything in from the car in one trip. I am not sure why I hate going back a second time, but I do. My husband laughs at me when he sees all the extortions I go through to try to accomplish it!! I was also really impacted in powerful ways about the title and the story to amplify its meaning…Invisible Bandaids! Thanks so much for these good words and powerful images!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad I’m not alone in that craziness of trying to carry WAY more than I should in each load. ha. Sometimes it takes me longer to load up all the bags for one trip than it would have taken to just make two trips. 🙂

  10. Carol

    Oh this is so spot on! To listen to the point of noticing injuries that are not band-aid-able! I love it! And along the same lines, can we practice compassion if we cannot see the band-aid? 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Not seeing the band-aids definitely makes it harder to feel compassion. It’s too bad that we don’t come with “Read my backstory today!” signs as needed. 🙂 Lingering long enough to hear someone’s story definitely can make us more compassionate.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree, Bill: it’s likely more easy to be an uncaring person than a caring person. But the benefits from caring make it all worthwhile! Even with that deep groaning at times.

  11. cynthia

    Great post! Yes, those invisible scars can bleed the heaviest. We all have a few scars that are invisible to the human eye, but I am glad that His eyes see all. Every day, I lay my cares upon His altar and I struggle to leave them there…as I like to pick them up, again;-) Yeah, we may not have a solution, but we have faith, prayer and caring hearts. And, that’s enough. The Lord will do the rest! May you continue to bless others with your actions, words and deeds. Cynthia

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      These are such encouraging words, Cynthia. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that even when people don’t see the wounds, God does! He is the perfect Healer in his own time and ways.

  12. Jennifer Dougan

    Those hidden hurts can be so hard to spot sometimes, huh? I work with teens and women and always pray to try to be more perceptive, and for God to help us really see them. So hard.

    I have two teen girls that are on my mind too, concerned for them since a youth event this last weekend.

    Thanks for your takes here. They pull me in and make me think.

    Have a great week, Lisa.

    Jennifer Dougan

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My heart goes out to you, Jennifer, as you pray for those two teen girls. I’m sure their week is better because of your prayers for them, even if their problems are still unsolved. God’s presence makes a difference, even unaware.

  13. Mary Geisen

    This ode to hidden hurts is one that I need to recognize in my own life. It causes me to stop and think of all the times I cover up my own in the hopes of producing a realistic face of “I’m okay.” If I go through this then how many other people ache from something we know nothing about?

    I love how kids notice the most random things. Your story made me smile and brought back all the times I was teaching. Lessons were interrupted often because what the kids had on their mind at that moment was important. Thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yep, we all have learned how to cover up the wounds we don’t want to talk about, sometimes for good reason, and sometimes not. May the Lord give us equal discernment about what to share as he gives us discernment about what to ask of others.
      I’m sure you have quite a book full of stories with your students! We keep telling my daughter that she needs to be writing them down. 🙂

  14. Ruth

    Hi, Lisa! I linked up after you on RaRa Linkup, so I hopped on over again. Yay, I get to see the funny cartoon again and remember to be more compassionate like a young child! 🙂
    Have a great week in the Lord!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The cartoon makes me smile every time I see it too. 🙂 There are certain commercials that make me laugh every single time, too. Thanks for the visit again, Ruth, and may the Lord shine on you this week as well!

  15. Dolly

    So sorry you hurt yourself, but you wrote an amazing post because many of us do walk around with invisible wounds. What a reminder to be more kind and gentle to those around us because we don’t know what she or he is dealing with. Blessings to you and your tender heart. Kids are so wise 🙂 Happy New Year 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Dolly: we rarely know what other people around us are dealing with. So much of our stories are invisible to the outside world, but that doesn’t excuse us from showing kindness. Thanks for sharing!

  16. bluecottonmemory

    When the boys were little, we always talked about how they needed to leave God’s band-aid (the scab) alone so it would heal. That always seemed to work. They wouldn’t touch it because I think they trusted God’s band-aid so much more than the pull-off ones. I’m sorry about your abrasion – and the illness of the gentleman you minister to. Praying that I see those around me with wounds who need the love of Jesus poured over them! You have such a gentle way of tell a straight-to-the-heart story!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a great way to explain to your boys to leave the scab alone! I need to take and give that advice as well. 🙂 We all have areas in our story that need to be given proper time to heal without us picking and judging and condemning. Thanks for your prayers, friend!

  17. floyd

    Excellent post, Lisa.

    And every soul that walks through this world carries scars and wounds… but most of the world, and me sometimes, only notice their own wounds.

    Our wounds don’t heal until we tend to the wounds of others.

    It’s dichotomy of what makes sense in our flesh.

    Thanks for the wisdom and the needed reminder.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Good point, Floyd….sometimes we’ve so consumed with our wounds that we don’t look up to notice the wounds of those around us. God often promotes our healing in community—thanks for adding that here!

  18. Jean Wise

    Your post, Lisa reminds me of the saying: Everyone we meet longs for something, has lost something and want to be loved. Invisible wounds and bandaids – powerful image. Had to laugh. My weight watcher leader said a few years ago: quite being so efficient carrying in everything in one load. Get more steps and expend more calories by making it two or three trips instead of one. another reason not to carry too much next time. LOL

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, that’s good advice from your weight watcher leader—the more trips, the better. ha. I need to look at it that way! 🙂 I brought 11 bags in this week in 2 trips; think how many more calories I would have burned if I’d made that 4 trips instead. ha.

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  20. Susan

    Boy, can I ever relate to this! I don’t even know how to answer your question, about how we could be more aware of others’ hidden struggles, because I feel like often we work so hard to keep things hidden and keep up the appearance of being okay (at least I do). Thanks for writing this. It’s a needed message!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your point is an important one, Susan: we make it harder on each other to see those invisible struggles when we are hiding our own. 🙁 May we each better understand and live out the importance of making ourselves vulnerable for the greater good of everybody!

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