“No really…how ARE you?”
How many times a day do we exchange that question to people? Now how many times do we actually expect an HONEST response?
It’s a cultural nicety really. The question goes hand-in-hand with “Hello!” so we almost feel rude if we don’t tag it onto the end of our greeting.
I did my graduate school volunteer work at a center for grieving children in Portland, Oregon. These were kids who had parents or siblings die recently and just needed a safe place to process + grieve. Their stories continue to break my heart yet their resiliency and perspectives on life will always lift my own spirits even to this day.
We were taught to never ask the “How are you” question of the children who walked through the front doors, as it would perform only 1 of 2 things:
1) force them to engage in the social appropriate
lie answer of “I’m good”
2) confuse them as they would stop and consider how they truly felt at the moment…which wasn’t something we wanted to force upon their young, little spirits the moment they walk into our front door.
“Umm, Marion? This is all great…but what’s your point?”
Haha…Okay. So I brought this up because here I am at a local coffee shop working when this gentleman sits down next to me. We exchange the niceties and out of my mouth pops the “How are you?” question (bad Marion!)
He gives a polite + yet very non-convincing “I’m fine” and continues to set -up his laptop. My eyes darted back and forth from my own screen to his face as he finished setting up. He looked sad.
And then I forced myself to take a deep breath and “be that weird chick” and I heard my voice suddenly saying, “I’m sorry…are you okay?” I was leaning forward and my gaze was begging him to look at me (something this shy girl does not do easily). But to my relief he took a deep breath + looked at me and replied, “It’s been a rough morning.”
I stood up saying “Let me buy you a coffee. It’ll be my pleasure.”
And then he smiled. And of course he said I didn’t need to do that…but I insisted.
And as I handed him his coffee he gave me a genuine smile. At that moment I was reminded of the TRUE POWER WE EACH HAVE to brighten the day of a virtual stranger…
xo – Marion