Scraped Knees and Southern Hospitality

By Kristen Pope

“Hey, how are you?”

A friend of mine who is a licensed counselor posted something on Instagram that struck me recently. It said, “May 2020 be the year we stop saying “I’m fine” to the question “how are you?”

You have undoubtedly asked and answered this question dozens of times. In the South, at least, it is as common a greeting as “hello”. It is part of well-intentioned Southern hospitality; to ask how someone how they’re doing. It implies that we genuinely care about other people’s well-being and want to know how their lives are going. But…do we really?

This isn’t in itself a bad question, but I realized recently that it’s become meaningless, and that we might ought to take direction from our children as to how we might reframe this greeting. Because you see, when you ask a child how they’re doing, or how their day went, you might find yourself stuck in a 10-minute story (as I did recently) about how their birthday is in exactly 26 days and they are going to have a superhero/spy mash-up party, full of far more information than you could ever need. You might not even be invited to the party!

But that child, excitedly telling me about their upcoming birthday party, was doing nothing more than honestly answering my question. “How are you?”, I had asked. Well, they were excited about their upcoming party of course! One of the many things I love about children is that they take you at your word. If you ask them how their day was, they assume that you are truly interested, & that you will care how many naps they took and that their favorite blue crayon broke. They don’t know any better than to openly & honestly share their life with you.

I think we would all agree that the vision God has for God’s community is one of bearing our joy & sorrows together. But somewhere along the way in ‘growing up’, we lose the willingness to openly share our lives with one another. We substitute honest answers about how we are doing with one-word snippets like fine, good, okay. God did not create us, knit us together and place us on Earth so that we would have to carry the weight of being human by ourselves. We have to be okay with not being okay, and saying so!

Children know this innately; when they fall and scrape their knee, they run unabashedly to the one who brings them comfort. When they are afraid of the dark, they seek out the people who will make them feel safe (& perhaps turn on a nightlight). When they are excited about something, their little bodies literally vibrate with joy, and they will share their happiness with everyone, from grandma to the person behind them in the grocery line.

That willingness to share of ourselves openly & honestly; I think that is God’s vision for kingdom community. This kind of vulnerability comes with risk, of course. There will be times when this kind of openness will be met with criticism, judgment, and accusations of ‘oversharing’. But I think God would want us to be in the business of a kind of oversharing of our lives with one another, like a child giving too many details about a birthday party.

So perhaps let’s change the question. Instead of asking ‘how are you?’ let us ask;

What sorrows can I help you bear?

What joys can I celebrate with you?

How can I walk alongside you today?

These questions may seem intimate, but we were intended for intimate community & fellowship.

When we’re excited about our birthday party let’s shout it from the rooftops, and when we scrape our knee, let’s not be afraid to cry out & seek comfort in our people.

Let us share our lives, each beautifully fragile day, as we journey together.

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