The question “How are you doing?” in one form or another probably gets asked about a billion times a day. Many of the times it is asked, it is asked by a stranger. It could be by a cashier at the grocery store, or someone else who has been told by their boss to ask it to all their customers, or just said in passing by the average person. Do we ever really sincerely ask that question, or is it just a cultural convention? This question was given to me years ago when I was at a local event. I walked into a tent that was being used as a store, and in passing, I asked the shopkeeper how he was doing. His reply was “Terrible!” I had been so used to asking this question as a cultural convention, that I almost didn’t hear the answer. When I realized that his answer wasn’t what I expected, I stopped in my tracks to talk to him. It turned out that he wasn’t doing terrible after all, he only said that as a test to see if anyone was listening or even caring. He thanked me for being the only one out of the many states he visited to actually pay attention to his reply!!!
Now I know that we can’t always truly mean the question, if we are on the clock, or running late to pick up a child from school, we just don’t have time to properly listen and to help, but when we do we should pay attention to the answer. If we can, we should help people who truly are not doing well. We can ask their name and pray for them, offer to buy them a cup of coffee, anything just to prove to the person that the world isn’t as ugly as it may seem in the moment. The smallest act of kindness can change lives. I have even heard stories about people who intended to commit suicide who were stopped by a simple act of kindness.