I walked into the small, unassuming cafÃ© the other day to get a cup coffee. The cafÃ©, situated just a couple of blocks north of Wall Street, is sadly caught up in the recent financial meltdown that has been sweeping across the globe.
I remember the woman who owns the cafÃ© as being someone who was routinely pleasant, and so when she cheerfully asked me how I was doing, I responded without thinking that I was good and that everything was “fine”. She dried her hands as she walked toward me and then she leaned over the counter, seemingly in an effort to finally come clean:
“Why do we even ask that question anyway – ‘How are you’? I mean, does anybody really even care”?
Realizing that I would now need to shift from automatic pilot to being fully conscious, I took a moment to gather my thoughts before I had to agree with her whole-heartedly that people are rarely, if ever, really looking for an honest answer when asking someone in passing, “How are you”. Rather, that question is more of an obligation that we think we need to fulfill so that we can “get on with it” without feeling like we’re being rude.
Satisfied that we had made a rare and real connection, I was happy to add the closing observation that it would be far more genuine and sincere if we all just went around wishing one another a better today:
“May your day today be better than your day was yesterday”.
Perhaps we should launch a campaign.
Later on that evening I watched as a commentator on one of the news channels chastised a couple of program hosts for suggesting that the government should not bail out the ailing auto industry, her sole rationale being that a huge percentage of their network’s advertising revenue comes directly from the auto industry. A few minutes later I listened as a political pundit spoke in defense of driving her SUV. While she made fun of the Italians for driving small automobiles and riding Vespas, her sole rationale for driving a gas guzzler was that she enjoyed being someone who was driving one of the biggest cars on the road – or words to that effect.
I am operating these days inside of a heightened state of social consciousness, accelerated most likely by the current “economic crisis”. I suspect that I am not alone. I keep noticing that people seem to be making decisions based only on what is “good for me right now”, while missing the opportunity to take the long view and consider making a choice that would serve their community, the nation or perhaps even someone living on the other side of the world.
In the middle of processing my considerations while continuing to watch the news, I reflected on my earlier exchange with the woman in the cafÃ© and I concluded that caring, really caring about how someone else is doing, might go a long way in shaping the kinds of individual choices that we make everyday.
We are facing the kinds of challenges as a nation and around the world that will likely call on each one of us to give a little bit more than we might expect to get, and to sacrifice for the greater good, in exchange for the opportunity to begin again.
“I am good” and “Everything is fine” is how we’ve been conditioned to respond when someone asks us “How ya’ doin”, but soon, and for a lot of people, those default, polite responses might start to feel a little forced. Maybe if we were all more deliberate in wanting to know just how someone else is really doing, maybe if we challenged ourselves to care even just a little bit about whether someone else is really “fine”, we might make the kind of choices that will allow for -
Our tomorrow to be better than today.
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