Just Peachy

If animals could talk, the world would lose its best listeners. ~Robert Brault, writer

peachy

How many times do we ask
“How are you?”
Expecting a simple reply.
“Fine.”
“No complaints.”
“Just dandy.”
Before turning back to our busyness,
Scurrying to appointments.
No real desire to tarry a while.

Hearing — real hearing — requires time.

Yet when someone asks us the same question,
We yearn for a listening ear,
A caring heart.
Just a few minutes
To share our thoughts,
Moan about our aches,
Complain about … whatever.
Before returning to our life
Solving problems, slaying dragons.

Hearing — real hearing — requires time.

Don’t bother asking, “How are you”
If you won’t wait around to hear the answer.
“How are you” shouldn’t be perfunctory.
Rather, it begs for a park bench or a coffee shop,
Some place where folks can sit a while and talk.
Really talk.
About things that keep them up nights.
Things that force them to their knees to pray.
Things that, shared, make their burden bearable.

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26 thoughts on “Just Peachy

  1. But sometimes, “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” is just a greeting, and nothing more. When I’m at work on the docks, and someone passing by says, “Hey! How’s it going?” they don’t want to hear a full answer, but I don’t want to give one, either. The trick, I think, is paying enough attention to people that we can tell when a little more conversation is needed or desired, and when a greeting’s just social convention.

    Both are important, and you’re exactly right that we’re pretty good at social convention, but not so good at being available when someone wants to respond with more than a “Fine, thanks.” You’ve offered an important reminder this morning!

    • Linda, perhaps the problem isn’t with the question but with the reply. I know I, too, have been “guilty” of the “Hi, how are you” thing without really wishing to linger over a less-than-stellar response. And we ALL know people who can grouse for hours over the tiniest ailments!

      Maybe we should come up with a response that, if we want to talk a bit, will clue the asker in. Then, again, maybe if we’re the asker, we should form our question depending on how much time we’ve got to chat. Gee, it all sounds so complicated, huh? No wonder people from other countries find English so hard to learn!!

  2. GREAT post, Debbie! And it’s ironic you posted on this topic because last week I was talking with someone at work about this same thing, I kid you not. And not only about expecting (and always assuming) a simple reply, such as, “Everything is just great!”, but also the importance of “listening” when others are expressing themselves.

    “Hearing — real hearing — requires time.”

    Exactly!

    Again, super post, my friend!

    • Thanks for coming along, Ron. It’s just such a puzzle, this communication-thing. I mean, we all know people we don’t particularly WANT to talk to — because they do nothing but grumble and find fault over life itself, and who wants to initiate conversation that’s headed in a negative direction?

      While others, even those in the midst of pain and tragedy, somehow overcome their own emotions and turn a sunny face toward the world, making them a delight and an inspiration.

      Perhaps it’s a matter of outlook? The glass is half-full or half-empty, sort of thing. I know some folks would rather unburden themselves on a complete stranger, while others only turn to their closest friends for the “big” stuff. To each his own, right?

      Happy rest of your week! xx

  3. I have a friend who is going through a very serious health situation. She is stable now but knows it’s only a matter of time. Anytime someone greets her with “How are you doing?”, it reminds her that she is coping with some scary stuff. She hates to talk about her health all the time and this question constantly brings the issue to the forefront. It makes her think that people look at her as “a sick person”. Truthfully, she’d prefer the greeting to be perfunctory because she’s not always interested in giving the full answer. And I have no idea what to do with that.

    • You’ve brought up an interesting quandary, Mo. I hadn’t even considered that. I imagine someone going through the scary stuff doesn’t care to focus on it, and having others ask probably feels somewhat invasive. If I encounter somebody in the midst of a “black cloud,” I always remind them they’re on my prayer list. Most of us — regardless of our beliefs — won’t turn down prayers!

  4. Yes, as your other commenters have said, it can be a tricky one. Over here, it used to be that the question was “How do you do?” and the answer was “How do you do?” with neither person actually saying how they did at all! That may have been easier… ;)

    • I’m afraid “How do you do” would be seen as old-fashioned here, FF, but I can see where it might be the answer. After all, it doesn’t exactly give whiners permission to moan, but it does show respect and courtesy toward another human being. You might be onto something!!

    • I don’t let everything out either, Audrey, not unless I’m with a long-time friend I know I can trust. Sad that others recognize the listener in us and willy-nilly unload, though, whether encouraged to do so or not, ha! What is it they used to say? Maybe that’s why we’ve got two ears and only one mouth?!!

  5. It’s such a rich gift to be listened to – and you know the difference when you are. I used to teach high school English – and stressed over and over again – listening skills. We can write, we can read, we can give a speech – but listening is just as important. It is, really, peachy.

    • Thanks, Barb. I suppose in our busy world everyone — from little kids to the elderly — needs to know there’s a safe haven where they can go where someone will take the time to really hear them!

  6. Listening is indeed an important part of connecting with others. It is important to realize in the craziness of everyday life about the need to slow down. I have been around several elderly people this summer who love to talk as so many of them are lonely. I have been reminded of the fine art of listening.

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