How are you doing? That’s a familiar question, isn’t it? It’s a question most of us are asked multiple times a day. But here’s an even better question for you. How many times in the past week did you respond to that common question with an honest answer?
‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17 – NIV
I am a child of the 60s and 70s. One of my favorite artists in my teenage years was Jackson Browne. He wrote a song that captivated my attention from the moment I first heard it. Even then, I recognized the truth in his words:
“Maybe people only ask you how you’re doing,
‘Cause it’s easier than letting on how little they could care,
But when you know you’ve got a real friend somewhere,
Suddenly all the others are so much easier to bear.”*
“How are you doing?” It’s a question we ask hundreds of times a day. It’s a greeting, not necessarily a real question. Do we ask it with a purposeful desire to hear everything that is going on in the other person’s world? Sometimes, but often not. Often, sadly, we don’t really care about the answer we receive. We’re only half-listening anyway. We are in a rush, ready to get on with the business at hand, Impatient to get back to our to-do lists, anxious to get on with our day.
But there are moments when a good friend asks you that question and really means it. There are moments when that friend stands and waits for the real answer, no matter what that answer might be. That friend isn’t looking for platitudes or the brush-off of a quick smile. That friend wants to hear how you’re really doing.
I recall such a moment, a moment that meant the world to me at the time. It occurred only a few days after that chilling moment in the opthamologist’s office when the doctor declared the four words I will never forget, “You are legally blind.” On a gorgeous autumn afternoon, one of my oldest friends showed up. He showed up and asked me a question.
“We walked slowly, Ricky’s arm still around my shoulders. When we got to the old maple tree at the side of our backyard, he paused and turned to face me. Quietly, he said, “So, how are you doing?”
In typical Ricky style, his eyes were locked on mine. This was no time for a casual answer. He wanted the truth.”**
-APS, from “Rough Places Smooth: Moments In A Journey Through Blindness”
I didn’t answer my friend Ricky at first. I tried to brush him off, to deflect the question, but he was having none of it. He really wanted to know how I was doing.
“After a few long moments, I blurted out, “I don’t know. It’s been hard. I’m worried about Eric.”
Ricky put his hand on my shoulder. “I didn’t ask about Eric. I asked about you. How are you?”**
-APS, from ”Rough Places Smooth”
That moment didn’t last long, but it made a world of difference to a young woman whose heart was breaking. A friend cared enough to show up and ask me the question, ”How are you doing?” He couldn’t fix it for me. He couldn’t take away the pain. He would have if he could, but he couldn’t. No one could. Still, he could be there in that moment with me, communicating by his presence that I mattered, that he cared about my plight.
On this Monday morning, is there a friend that you need to ask that important question? Is there a friend who needs you to stand there, patiently waiting for the real answer, not the platitudes, not the deflection? Is there someone you need to show up for today?
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12 – NIV
O Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of friendship. Thank You for the faithful people You put in our path to help and support us. We know You value the gift of friendship because we see the kindness and compassion You showed to Your friends while You walked this earth. Lord, teach us how to be a good friend. Show us who needs our kindness today.
In the Loving Name of Jesus, we pray,
*Lyrics from Jackson Browne, ”Late For The Sky”,
**Excerpts from Chapter 2 of “Rough Places Smooth: Moments In A Journey Through Blindness”
© 2022 by Anita Peden Sherer
All Rights Reserved.