We greet each other with a "Hello. How are you?" Daily. We speak as we walk briskly by and rarely wait for a response, and we certainly do not expect an honest, straight from the heart response. We do not take time to listen.
In the last few days, it has occurred to me how powerful the phrase, "How are you?" is. I saw it over the weekend as I looked a friend straight in the eyes and asked her, "How are you?" Her heart poured out, honest joys and sorrows, following that one simple phrase. And then I asked another, "How are you?" She spoke of a physical and emotional trauma and how her recovery is not happening as quickly as she'd like. And when I turned to ask this question of another, she spoke of seeing God's light in spite of the darkness, and still another shared her fears in taking a step of faith.
While I spoke to yet another friend, she expressed her disgust for the question because she does not feel like she can answer it honestly. I gave her the freedom, in fact, gave her the words she is too exhausted to even utter. But, it all started with the question.
We ask in passing what is meant to be asked with sincerity. We live in a world that is hurting and broken and wounded. Your neighbor, your friend, the person you meet while out walking, all have a story to tell. We all, at some point or another, need to have another living, breathing, human being look us in the eye and ask, "How are you?" We need them to wait for the answer, to not shy away from our honesty, and to hear what we have to say.
In spite of your busy schedule, in spite of your to-do list, I challenge you to stop and ask this question of someone. Slow yourself down and focus on the person in front of you and as you look them directly in the eyes, simply ask them, "How are you?" You may be providing the safe place, the listening ear, the encouraging words that the person has been longing for.