How are you today?
It is such a common exchange. Two people meet. One engages the other in conversation with the words, how are you? The response quickly comes, fine thanks, and you? Almost as if scripted, the reply rolls forth I’m fine, too.
Lately, I find myself following up with, really? What has ensued has been a variety of experiences: some have looked at me as if I had not heard them correctly the first time, and simply repeat, yes, I’m fine. Others are not quite sure what to say, and still others have queried, are you really asking? It has made me think about how we engage one another, and how we interact with each others lives. It has made me think about how I engage in such dialogues.
When I ask of another, how are you, do I have or take the time to really listen to an answer? Am I really interested in an honest answer, or am I merely engaging in cultural ritual? And when I am the one who is asked the how are you question, how do I respond, and why?
Several years ago I knew an acquaintance who engaged in this back and forth dialogue in a manner that I had not previously encountered. When asked how are you, this individual would always reply, I am blessed. Most often such a response would prompt some type of further conversation, as it was not what was expected.
On one particular day when I knew that this person had received some really upsetting news about a family member, I saw her on the sidewalk and asked, how are you? To which she responded, I’m blessed thanks, and you? Hearing those words, knowing what was going on in her life, I asked, how can you say that, given all the givens? Her reply humbled me. Given all the givens, I am loved by my God, loved by my friends and family, cared for by my community, and surrounded by unspeakable grace – in spite of what is sorrowful for me. So yes, I am blessed.
How are you today? I’m asking – really – drop me an email and let me know.
Nov. 27, 2012
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.