You know when you log into Facebook to update your status and the box to write in says “What’s on your mind?” ? Lately, I have often looked at that question, paused and thought to myself, “Really? Do you really want to know what’s on mind?” The answer is probably “no”. It is just a rhetorical question. I remember years ago when I learned about rhetorical questions in school, I thought it was so cool because it meant that I could ask a question without expecting a real answer and there would be questions that I would be asked but, never expected to give real answer. At the time, I thought that it meant that I could pick and choose ( based on my wise judgement) which that I needed to provide the requested information. Funny how that never worked with my parents. They always seemed to ask real questions and expect real answers.
I think, as a whole, we tend to ask rhetorical questions a lot. When we’re out and about we often say to complete strangers “How are you?” and really, I don’t think that we expect them to tell us, particularly, if there is something wrong. I remember once, when I was a teenager, I stopped by my grandmother’s house for a visit and she was sitting with her sister, my great-aunt, on her front porch. Both of these women are long since deceased but, I remember saying as I walked in, “How are you ladies doing?” Grandma responded, “Oh, I’m doing all right,” but my aunt said “I’ve been better. My back’s been hurting me and I’ve got a bit of constipation.” My grandmother looked at her, scrunched up her nose and said “Well, Alice!” I had no comeback to that, although, in hindsight her back aches were probably due to her constipation. I’m just sayin’. As for my Aunt, she looked nonplussed. She couldn’t figure out why my grandmother seemed annoyed, and too her point, I sort of agree. Well, now I do, but at the time it was just too much information. If I didn’t really care how she was doing, no matter what the answer, why did I ask? I was being polite but, not really caring.
This morning, on my way home from dropping Thing 2 off at school, I stopped off at the grocery store to pick up a few things. As I walked up to the check out to unload my cart, the cashier didn’t look at me or acknowledge me in any way. I stepped up to the register to pay, looked at her name tag and said “Good Morning, Kim! How are you, this morning?” Emphasis on the word “you”. In that instant, she paused, looked up at me and I noticed tears in her eyes. She blinked and said “I’m doing fine, Ma’am, and you?” She kept scanning and put her head back down. “I’m doing well, thank you,” I responded. We finished up and I left without saying much more than “Thank You.” Obviously, there was something wrong. My heart went out to her but, I didn’t know what to say.
It’s always a little unnerving to come across someone who is visibly upset. You want to know what’s wrong but, you don’t really want to get involved. Or, maybe you do want to be of some assistance, but it feels intrusive. I think we’ve all been there, on both sides of this. I know I have. And, in those times when I was the one in crisis, I didn’t much care to talk about it. But, that’s just me. However, I do like the idea that I can ask a question of someone and get an honest answer whether good or bad. I like the honesty and openness of it all. I like the idea of caring for one another, regardless of if it’s a friend or a stranger. I like the idea of being able to trust someone with pieces of your heart, at least long enough to be able to unburden yourself. I thought about that as I drove away from the grocery store. That maybe all you need is someone to listen and to genuinely care. I’ve determined that there isn’t much caring in our world these days. I don’t know what has happened to us.
Tomorrow is National Hug A Friend Day. Take time out to hug someone, a friend .. a few friends throw in a couple of strangers, too. Show someone that you care about them and that “How are you?” isn’t just a rhetorical question.