I live in the neighborhood I grew up in. It is nice enough, safe, and familiar. The older I get, the stronger the pull to live out a bit more. While I dream of quiet acreage, I also appreciate my proximity to Target. For the time being, we are here and my roots are pretty deep. There is something neat about living in the community you grew up in. It seems a lot of people I went to school with remained in or returned to the area to raise their own kids. Which is great, except for those times when you run to the grocery store in mismatched clothes, no makeup, and less than clean hair and run into multiple people…then it leaves a little to be desired.
Last week we went to our local high school hockey game. The three of us enjoy watching hockey and it feels good to cheer on the home team. As I climbed the bleacher stairs I saw one of my favorite teachers from about a million years back. I honestly don’t remember what grade it was, but I knew her bright eyes and mischievous laugh instantly. Her warm smile let me know that she remembered me as well. I walked over and we chatted and laughed. It was so good to see her. She hadn’t changed a bit.
Then as we parted, she asked me a shockingly simple question: “Are you happy?” It immediately struck me that no one asks this. The answer is yes, I am happy. We shared a hug and I returned to my guys, but in my head, I kept replaying the question. I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had asked me that. We ask how the kids are. We ask if parents are healthy. We ask where you work. We ask how work is going. We ask where you live. We ask where did you get that. Rarely do we ask the one question that really matters – are you happy?
It made me wonder why we don’t ask. Are we afraid the answer might be no? What if we asked and there was an awkward pause. What is we asked and were then forced to listen to all the reasons the answer was no? Maybe we’re not ready for that. We can ask about the weather and escape without a second thought. We can ask about the cute purse and keep it light. We can ask about work and not feel a thing. What if we all started asking the one question that really matters…are you happy?
What if we were prepared to listen when the answer was no? What if the long pause of silence was met with an encouraging word? What if we put a little effort into making someone happy? My former teacher may have asked because she was pretty sure the answer would be yes, but her tone told me otherwise. She asked because she really wanted to know. It had the same authenticity as the day in health class she pulled a tampon out of her purse and made everyone squirm and blush. Real life can be uncomfortable like that. As we all sunk into our desks wanting to disappear, she was letting us know this is reality, it isn’t always pretty. So when she put her hand on my arm and looked me in the eye and asked, she really wanted to know the answer. And somehow I felt valued in being asked.
I wish the same feeling for you, so I ask – are you happy?