I am a barista at a local coffee-house in the beautiful PNW and I do so enjoy it. I have drunk more caffeine than the human body should consume; burnt my hands on steam wands countless times; spilt espresso on every article of clothing I own; laughed so hard I spewed latte all over the place and I have learned so much. But, God has a sneaky way of teaching you more than meets the eye in these lives of ours.
Anyone who has ever worked in any sort of customer service job knows that you meet some… umm… interesting people. The other day I met a women whom I thought fit into this category perfectly. To be honest, part of me still does. I do not know her name, I can barely remember her face, but I remember her drink order (16oz hemp milk chai latte) and most importantly I remember her words.
I greeted her with exhaustion and a little frustration from the last several hours masked by a perfectly crafted smile to hide it all. With all the cheerfulness and genuine kindness I had inside of me I asked her,
How are you doing?
If I could have seen inside her head I am sure I would have seen her climbing up on to the top of the world biggest soap box as she cleared her throat to give it to me straight.
“Let me give a piece of advice I have given several people.” She began with an unforeseen friendliness on her lips, “You can’t ask me how I am doing unless you really want to know.”
“That is why I asked you, I really do want to know.” I responded with a smile.
“No. You don’t.” She said as a matter of fact, with a smirk in her eyes.
She went on to tell me of all the other things I could have said to greet her just as pleasantly, but with a more honest intent. Although the smile on my face never said otherwise, I was angry with her. I was hurt that she did not believe my sincerity. I truly did ask her with full intent of deeply listening to whatever it was she had to share. I genuinely wanted to know.
“I really do want to know, Ma’am. God calls us to love others, and sometimes it is much easier to talk to a stranger.”
I am still not sure if she was skeptical or impressed by my response, and to be perfectly honest it doesn’t matter. We talked a bit longer about the matter before I wished her a fabulous day and she was walking away sipping on her hemp chai. As she walked away I was still bothered and I felt a little-up-in-arms about the whole ordeal. At first I thought she was just being rude.
“I am sure a lot of people do just ask for the sake of to making conversation, but not me.” I thought defiantly.
The day went on as usual, 5:30pm rolled around and I locked up and went home. And that was that, I thought nothing more of it and chalked it up to another “interesting” customer.
The next day everything she said hit me like a ton of bricks. We were in the middle of a very busy rush at Mud Bay Coffee and I was at the register.
“Hello.” I would say with a smile, “How is your day?”
“Good, how is your’s?” they would respond.
“Good, a bit frantic at the moment, but good.” I said back.
I was like a broken track record. I didn’t even realize what I was saying! I just said it because, well, that’s what you say when you see someone. I was in shock. I was doing everything she said I would.
For a second I was angry at her again, but this time because I saw the truth in what she said. I began to think about all the people who we don’t spend the time to sincerely listen. I was thinking about how nobody has the time to sincerely listen to everybody and i was thinking of the value and importance of the question, “how are you doing?”.
This is what I came to.
Yes, that is a good question to ask people will honest intent, so ask! But, be ready to listen. Be ready to hear the hard things and to pray for and encourage the stranger you asked. Don’t ask when you are in the middle of a rush at work, don’t ask as you walk past someone in the hallway and never ask if you are in a bad mood. Ask when you have the time to listen, respond and love. It’s okay not to ask! Sometimes, we really are just to busy! Don’t lie to someone by making them think otherwise.
When someone asks you, “How are you doing?” or “How is your day?” answer honestly. Be kind, this isn’t an opportunity to vent to a stranger until you are blue in the face, this is an opportunity to show God’s love – even in your bad days! Answer with the truth, don’t sugar coat it, don’t lie. Be vulnerable enough, just as Jesus would, to open up and allow them to listen, respond and pray for you! God really does call us to love and be loved. This is part of that! Brace yourself, ask for God’s guidance and talk.