Time for more “How are You?” and less “Where are You?”
It’s hard to believe that just a month ago I was speaking on #Inclusion and #Diversity at a conference and gathering with other fans to watch my son’s senior year of varsity baseball for Gaithersburg High. Social distancing was not a term I was familiar with. Gathering with others was normal and safe. It feels like a different, distant life.
Danger and Opportunity
So much has happened. Now, every day seems to bring news that paints an increasingly ominous picture with a more distant end to this social crisis. No doubt all of us are struggling to maintain order and peace in our hearts as well as our homes. This is a profoundly uncertain and distressing time. The roller coaster ride of emotion, fear, and moods can be debilitating both personally as well a professionally. Such times can reveal things in us that we are not proud of. But such times also allow for us to identify virtues and strengths that we may not have realized we possessed, and give attention to values that we may have previously overlooked. As the Chinese character for the word “crisis” reveals, there is both danger and opportunity in such times.
Many have stepped up to give aid and comfort to those feeling disconnected and to provide resources for health and well-being. Recently my friend Jodi Davidson, Global Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion @Sodexo gave a virtual workshop to some of my CORE 2020 classmates @Leadership-Montgomery. It was full of wisdom and insight. But what really stood out to me was the high level of care expressed by Jodi to her listeners, as well as the emphasis on expressing care in this trying and unprecedented time. Jodi gave various ways we can show care for others, but the most basic is simply to ask, “How are you?” It’s so simple, but too often we get right to the business, or to make some point, and we fail to engage personally and relationally. Here’s the thing: the mutual sense of loss, grief, and discombobulation we are feeling now and the need for care through this crisis should only remind us of what is always true, Coronavirus crisis or not: expressions of personal and relational care are always in season. The truth is we don’t know what someone else is going through, what their emotional state may be in the moment, or what tough meeting or conversation they may have just had.
The Need for Grace
This reminds me of a story shared by Howard J. Ross in his book #Our Search for Belonging. Ross tells about a time when Stephen Covey was sitting on a subway when a man got on the train with his kids. The kids were very noisy, obnoxious, and out of control. Everyone on the train was affected and disrupted by them, yet the man sat silent, seemingly oblivious to the racket. Finally Covey turned to the man and, expressing what pretty much everyone else on the train was thinking said, Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?” The man looked up and softly said, “Oh, I guess you are right. I should do something about it. It’s just that we just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t quite know what to think or what to do, and I guess, my kids don’t know how to handle it either.”
We all have been affected by the present crisis. It appears things are likely to get worse before they get better. I believe this is an opportune time to recognize and learn new insights and skills that maybe our pre-Coronavirus lives didn’t afford to us. One of these skills can and should be intentional, skillful care for others. This is a skill that not only will pay significant dividends in the workplace, but in all of our relationships, and especially with our partners and our children.
When we get to the other side of the Coronavirus crisis (and we will!) and we look back upon this bizarre and scary time from the relative comfort of a post-crisis perspective, I’d like to suggest that the question “How are you?” is a good slogan for what we can and should take away. It expresses care and connection, relationship and inclusion, all things that are valuable and needed. Who knows, maybe we will see that the gain in care and connection will even be better than whatever we lost. For sure, to gain heart and skills in caring for others will make us better people and for a better world.
On the flip side, if we are not asking “How are you?” we may get the question “Where are you?” We ask this when a person is lost, or if someone is disconnected, or when we aren’t sure they are listening or engaged. It is the question given to someone who is not present, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. “How are you?” expresses the desire to be connected. “Where are you?” expresses the concern that a person is disconnected. In this time where so many, from the youngest to the oldest, crossing all socio-economic, ethnic, and faith backgrounds are feeling profound losses and significant uncertainty, we need to be connected; we need to pursue being present with one another. I am hoping for each of you that this time will be characterized by “How are you?” and not by “Where are you?”
An Offer of Help
Caring and being present is easier said than done, especially when we are feeling anxious, confused, and even depressed. When we are absorbed in our own fear and concerns, we have little ability to offer care to others. As we are reminded every time we board an airplane, in order to effectively care for others we first have to put on our own oxygen mask. We need clean, oxygenated air to breathe in order to be present to care for others.
Thus, in light of the strain and even anguish many are experiencing right now, to offer some fresh air to those who are struggling to breathe in this crisis, I am offering my pastoral and counseling services free of charge to anyone who would like help. We can call it Coronavirus Care. I have been a pastor, counselor, and personal coach for the past 20 years. I believe this is a way I can serve and give care to others with the gifts and experience I have been given.
If you would like to book a Zoom appointment with me, simply go to this this link to get on my calendar.
In addition, my very wise and caring wife, Erin, has also agreed to serve in this way. If you would prefer a female to talk to or if you and your partner would like to speak with both of us, you can indicate that on the scheduler.