Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How ARE you?

“How are you?” is such a simple question.  It is a question that most of us ask and answer every single day.  “How are you?” is rather reflexive for many of us.  We say it as a greeting, as a formality, as a habit.  And we usually answer this question simply and positively, giving a quick, “I’m good!” or a “fine, thanks”.  We say and hear “how are you” exchanges so many times a day that we often don’t realize how much we actually do ask and answer this question.  So much so, in fact, that we often do not pay attention to the answers, either. 

Think, for just a moment, about how many times you have heard that one little question today.  How many times have you asked “how are you”?  How was the question asked?  Was it a form of hello?  Just a quick exchange?  And how intentionally was it asked? 

Now, consider the responses you have given and received to that question.  Did you reply, “I’m good!”?  Did you hear, “Fine, thanks”?  Generally, we tend to say that we are doing well.  That things are going just fine.  We tend to keep it short.  We tend to keep it sweet.  And we tend to keep it surface-y and impersonal.  Quite often, we don’t listen closely to the answer of “how are you”.  And quite often, we do not expect to hear an answer that substantial or meaningful in any way.

So what would like it be like, then, if someone asked you, “how ARE you?”  How would you feel if someone took the time to investigate exactly how you are holding up?  How might you feel if someone expressed a genuine interest in your feelings, your well-being, the current events of your life?  What might you think if someone would not accept a “fine, thanks” for an answer?  If they insisted that you tell them more.  That you must have something to say, and they would like to hear more about it.

Have you ever been asked that different kind of “how are you”?  Have you ever been taken back by someone’s genuine concern for your well-being?  Has it ever caught you by surprise or touched you when someone took the time to ask about you?  And have you ever asked this sort of “how are you”?  Have you ever stopped to consider how someone is doing and taken the time to find out?  Have you ever asked someone how they were and truly cared about their answer, no matter what it might be?

I hope so.  I hope that you have both given and received this kind of question.  I hope that “how are you” has been asked in such a way that you could not give a patented “pretty good” answer.  I hope that you have also done the same for a friend.  I hope that you have taken part in this meaningful exchange because it implies that you are fortunate enough to have sincerity in your life.  That you have consideration, concern, and lovingkindness for one another.  This suggests that you and your loved ones are not so absorbed in yourselves that you forget about the well-being of others.  It demonstrates care, and that assumptions, formalities, and cover-ups are not being made.  That you have compassionate and thoughtful care for one another, that you feel invited and secure enough to talk about your experiences.  

Today, my beloved birds, ask “how are you?”  Seek out a real answer, and consider what you hear.  Take time to show your fellow birds how much you care, how much they are loved.  Venture out of your normal routine, and take the time to tell someone how you are.  Give them the chance to listen, to wrap you in their wings of lovingkindness.  Connect in this way, my songbirds, and I think you will be surprised with what you learn, what you say, and how you feel with this new kind of “how are you”.
Ellie Otteson

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