Last May I wrote a post titled “I’m Fine, Thanks” in which I talked about a time I decided to be real with how I am feeling and the repercussions of declaring that I am NOT fine.
Today I wanted to continue on that, because I have been practicing what I preached about since then, but I have added a new dance to that routine.
“How are YOU?” Then I step back and really listen. Let me share with you what I have found.
Super friendly lady in the jewelry store. Eager to please with a smile as big as Texas. Her attitude is generous and giving. I asked “How are YOU?” Then I sat down to listen.
She is struggling daily with intense back pain for which she has not been able to find relief. Standing on her feet so much aggravates this, but she has to have the job. Several relationships have been difficult lately and many times she never even wants to leave the house. She wrestles with severe depression and feels nobody understands.
The guy who handed me my coffee through the window at the drive-thru. Friendly and seemed not to have a care in the world. He was slightly goofy in an endearing way. I asked “How are YOU?” and then since nobody was behind me, I put it in park and listened.
He had a very bad breakup not long ago and although thankful that no children were involved; he mourns the fact that he has no children. He was treated so horribly that sometimes he doesn’t consider that his life is worth living. His mother is worried for him…I am worried for him.
The older man who bagged my groceries. He has a calming presence and an eager smile. Always willing to help and always has stickers ready for my kids. Full of wisdom and cute “old person” sayings. I asked him “How are YOU?” and was ready to listen.
His wife died not long ago after years of being very ill. Medical bills have stacked up and he is forced to work two jobs even though he gets Social Security. He is living in a one room basement apartment of one of his children’s houses. They pretty much ignore him and he is hurt by the treatment of family.
These are only three examples of the hundreds of stories I have gathered from people who are just down the street from me. People who by first glance appear happy and that they are enjoying life. These people I make a point to visit over and over. I listen to how the story is going and they are always amazed I remember them.
How could I forget their heartache?
I don’t just ask these people “How are YOU?” in a flippant manner that suggests I am just being polite. I stop what I am doing. I make eye contact. I make sure my posture shows that I am really listening. I ask questions and then I remember them.
How many people do you have brief contact with during the day and you never stop to think that they have a story? Their smile assures you that their life is good and you move about your day without another thought to what is behind their smile. Are they struggling at home? Are they struggling with family? Are they struggling to even have the will to live another day?
What would you be able to change if you asked them how they are…how they REALLY are and took the time to listen?