Friday, August 26, 2011


I have quite a few scars. Scars from surgeries and scars from injuries. Most of the scars from injuries came from when I was young. I wonder, does anyone make it through childhood without a scar to show for it? If so, were they quiet, sheltered children? Or just plain lucky? My scars differ in how noticeable they are. Some, such as the surgery scars, are difficult to see. The wound was made precisely, and then just as carefully sutured by the surgeon. Antibiotics were given during surgery to lessen the chance of infection. I took good care of my incisions afterwards as well. They are hardly even noticeable.

Other scars are quite a different story. They were gained in an injury and often not sutured as they should have been. They are much more noticeable! Still, they were attended to in a fairly prompt fashion, and disinfected so that infection was kept at bay. They cause me no discomfort, they are just unsightly. My son bears a magnificent scar on his calf that falls into this category. He spiked himself while competing in high jump during track season. We wrongly decided it did not need stitches...oh well, he is a makes him look tough!

I do have one scar though that is very different from the rest. It is hidden...on the sole of my foot, in the arch. If I step on something just right it is still painful...44 years later. At the age of four I stepped on a piece of dirty glass out by where we burned our trash. I still remember the pain and all the blood...a lot of blood. My mom washed it under the water at the sink and finally determined that nothing was embedded in my foot. She applied a dressing to it along with good old Campho-Phenique. Thank goodness my dad didn't get hold of me and douse it in Merthiolate! The foot was painful for days, in fact I was unable to put my foot down at all. Any pressure caused intense pain. The rest of my family quickly tired of seeing me hopping around on one foot. In fact they began to suspect it was all just a ploy for attention. To say I was not treated well during that time is an understatement. The fact I can still remember it all so clearly speaks for itself. Finally, about one week after the incident, my mother took me to see the doctor. An x-ray showed a 1/2 inch piece of glass that had worked its way right up to the bone in my foot. I promptly had minor surgery to remove the glass and my poor mother received an earful from the doctor on how lucky I was not to have sustained any permanent damage. He concluded that the fact that I had refused to put weight on the foot had kept the glass from causing more harm. Still, the damage that had already occurred to the tissues, along with the additional scar tissue, have made this a tender spot ever since.

I often do we see someone struggling in life, limping along, and say "They are fine. Nothing is really wrong, they just want attention."? Just because we cannot see the source of the pain, does not mean it isn't real. They may be limping along because the full weight is unbearable for them. At what point do we step up and ask if we can help? To simply offer support and acknowledge their pain? Without an x-ray into their soul, we cannot always see that which is hurting them. Even injuries that are old and healed can still cause tender spots. Spots that if just the right amount of pressure is applied, can still be quite painful.  

Empathy is a gift that not everyone is born with. The ability to recognize and share another's pain is the precursor to compassion. You cannot have one without the other. But empathy can be grown, simply by changing the way you see others. Allowing yourself to see things from a different, more humble perspective. Something we all need to work on perhaps?


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