My grandson Lucas is now six months old.  Lucas is one of the happiest little babies I know.  He hardly ever cries and his smile is constant and infectious.  However, lately Lucas has been crying more and his mum tells me it’s from his teeth forming under the gums.  It’s not the pain from the teeth breaking through the skin but an unseen pain under the surface.

It made me think about the people we do life with who have learned not to cry but still carry unseen pain either physically or emotionally. On the surface they look good, they look together, but there is an unravelling on the inside, a deep pain that is real and relentless that others do not see.

Living with Motor Neurone Disease, and having many friends with disease, I have experienced this first hand.   It can be a physical pain but also the pain of experiencing your body shutting down, symptoms either quickly or slowly worsening, and the pain of adjusting to a new version of the future.

Neal and Janine are friends living this journey.  When Neal was diagnosed with MND less than two years ago, he was a strong miner.  However Neal can no longer walk without assistance, eat food or speak with clarity.   Janine, his wife, told me how frustrating it was in the early stages of the disease when even some of the medical profession didn’t take Neal’s disease seriously because of appearance.

I wonder if it’s true and there are people in our world living with unseen pain every single day, do we allow their appearance to distract us from our response?   My personal conviction is that however messy or painful someone’s story may be, I will give them the chance to honestly share it.

I will be ready to listen, understand and offer comfort.

Once I knew Lucas, my grandson, was in pain, it immediately changed my countenance towards him.  I had compassion.   Some people I speak to with MND are physically exhausted before they have finished dressing for the day.  These are courageous men and women who go out and face the day regardless.

The compassionate person acknowledges the courage, strength and energy it takes someone in pain to look somewhat pain-free on the outside.

I consider myself blessed to have some very close friends and family who have looked past my appearance and asked, “How are you going?” They don’t answer before I can finish.  They give me space to be honest, they inspire me with faith, they are fearless and I thank them.

If you know someone who is in a tough situation, a trial of sorts, I encourage us all to have the courage to ask how they are and then take the time to listen to their response. Learn to see with your ears.

Looks may not be the whole story.