The Power of Asking, "Are you OK?"

I went to the bank drive-thru this week. It was Friday, so I knew the drive-thru would be busy. And it was.

Everyone coming into the drive-thru needed to pull into either the first or second lane. The white truck in front of me pulled into the second lane as I went around it into the first lane—then the truck started to suddenly back up! Afraid the driver didn't see me, I hit my horn to alert them that I was just a few feet behind them. 

I pulled into the first lane completely and glanced over at the driver. It was a woman, about my age, who was undoubtedly screaming some not-so-kind words to me and about me through her window. And yes, there were hand gestures.

I was waiting in the first lane for my turn. And by now, she had backed up just a bit and rearranged her truck fully in the second lane, waiting her turn.

I rolled down my passenger-side window and waved to her. Her gaze was fixed forward, and I could just tell that she was seething with anger—at me?

I kept waving, and she finally looked at me and rolled down her window. Before she could say anything, I sincerely said, "I am so VERY sorry that I beeped at you. I was just surprised that you started backing up and didn't think you saw me in your mirror. ARE YOU OK?"

Tears filled her eyes as she attempted to remain angry with me. And then I saw her soften. 

"My husband is in the hospital, and I'm so sorry I yelled at you." She went on with her story across the driveway. I said, "If it's OK, I'm going to pray for you and your family." She nodded.

We both pulled forward to do our banking, I said a quick prayer. Our windows were still down, so I yelled, "Ma'am, I'm wondering if you have a quick minute to get a hug?" 

She nodded. As she completed her banking, she pulled forward into a parking place. I finished my banking, pulled my car next to her truck, and when I got out, she was already right beside me. I opened my arms, and she fell into them. 

Her husband was in the hospital for heart issues and had now taken a fall. She was completely stressed out. I asked her if she was a woman of faith, and she nodded. I grabbed her hands and started praying for her, her hubby and their family.

We traded contact info, and we've texted back and forth. Perhaps I have a new girlfriend, or perhaps I was just put in her world to encourage her and love her for those few moments. But the circumstances have made me step back and think about people.

Most people are really great people. But life is so often hard. I know I'm not my best (or even "myself") when I'm stressed out for various reasons. You might have heard the line that, "Hurt people hurt people." It's so true.

I started asking, "Are you OK?" years ago in business when I would run into a cranky client, a rude customer service person, or anyone who just seemed "off." That question disarms everyone who hears it when it's asked with sincerity and love.

Every response is almost identical. They stop. The realize they were "off." And then the floodgates open. Someone genuinely expressing care for them by asking "Are you OK?" allows them to open the valve on the pressure cooker of their world.

It's a simple thing. I hope you'll start asking, "Are you OK?" when you see someone struggling. That simple kindness can make all the difference in their lives! 

Shared with love by Jan James, Hope After Breast Cancer

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