One of my biggest pet peeves is when people ask “How are your doing?” in passing, and they just keep on walking before they hear your response.
I specifically think of those times in my life, when I was aching for someone to really care about how I was doing and to take the time to listen. Like when I was a young teenager feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, when I had my first break up, or when I was struggling with multiple illnesses as a college student. Maybe, when asked how I was doing, I responded with something like “okay.” But I just wished, that someone would read between the lines, and notice that I was not “okay.”
So for me ….. I want to know how people are REALLY doing. (And you reading this right now… If I know you, and you are not doing okay, please tell me about it.)
And when people give me a vague response like “I’m okay” or “things could be better,” I don’t stop there.
A few weeks ago I was visiting the library with my kids. As we were returning our books, I ask the receptionist how she was doing and her response was something like “I have had better days.” To which I responded ” I am sorry to hear that.” She in turn began to tell me that her husband of 37 years left her for another woman. I was honestly taken aback. If I wasn’t with my kids, I would probably stayed there a while to chat with her….hold her hand…. and let her pour out her heart. But with the limited time I had, before my kids got out of line, I simple said something like “That is terrible.”
Sometimes we think that we have to have something really profound to share when someone is hurting, and as a result we shy away from a deeper conversation with them.
But really, our response could be something as simple as “that stinks”, “I am so sorry for you,” or “I am praying for you.” Something to just let someone know that you see their pain.
The trick, I think, is to be on the look out, and to live in the present. (I am sure that I have missed a number of these opportunities, while I was focused on my plan for the day.)
The past few weeks, I have had a few conversations while washing my hands in the bathroom at church. Two weeks in a row mind you I struck up a conversation there and in both cases the women shared some medical problems they were experiencing.
It’s funny, I think sometimes when you are not making eye contact, like when you are washing hands, or driving in the car, people are more willing to share.
Anyway, in both cases, I was able to encourage and pray for these woman, for a minute or two, and then to go on my way. It doesn’t have to take much time.
Everyone needs a listening ear from time to time, we are all bearing burdens, so be on the look out for those who need some encouragement. It could happen in the most unlikely places. (I had a friendship with a toll both collector when I was in graduate school, in our brief daily conversations he shared about his medical problems.)
The way we build a kinder world is one conversation at a time. (And pssst, guess what our kids are watching us and learning from our examples).
So please share your stories. I would love to hear them.