Is Anybody Listening?

by | May 13, 2014 | Listening

“How are you today?”

“I’m fine, how are you?”

“I’m not so good today.”


Most of the time we take conversations like this as simple chit-chat. Nice words spoken as a courtesy without real concern or obligation.

“How are you today?” He asks the next person.

“I’m doing great! How are you?”

“I’ve been better,” he replied.

He rings up the sale, hands her the bag and she leaves.

The next person moves up, “How are you today?”

“I’m doing fine,” she said. But she never asked him. I could see this empty look on his face.

I was in a local discount dollar store. I was looking for wrapping paper which was located near the front register.

Over and over I heard the same conversation as customers were leaving the store.

No one took the next step. No one asked the clerk why he was having such a bad day.

In my presentations I often speak about the fact that in general we go through these niceties but we really don’t want to know how someone is doing. Most times we don’t really tell the truth anyway because we figure it’s none of their business or no one really cares about our troubles.

So, when I checked out I took it a step further. I always do.

“How are you today?” He asked me.

“Wonderful, thanks. How are you?”

“Not doing well today,” he replied.

“Work getting to you?”

“No, well, I don’t want to be here.”

“The day’s almost over. I hope it gets better,” I told him.

“This won’t get any better.”

“I’ll say a prayer for you.”

“That won’t help. I have someone who is dying.”

I set the bag on the counter, leaned in and said, “I’m so very sorry. Is it a family member?”

“My grandfather. He’s filling up with fluid.

His body is swollen and they say he only has a few days.”

I went on to tell him that my Gramps was my favorite. “I really loved that man.”

“He’s my last grandparent,” he added.

We talked a little more and looking at his name tag, I reached my hand out and said, “Clark, I am so very sorry. I promise to remember you and your grandfather in my prayers.

We shook hands and I left.

I wondered how many other people didn’t ask.

How many times have you heard someone express sadness, frustration or disappointment and you didn’t respond.

Sure, the line might be long. Step aside and continue the conversation.

Sure, you might be in a hurry. This will only take a few minutes.

Sure, in essence you might not really care. You’ll need someone to care one day, too.

But when someone is honest enough to tell you things aren’t so good today, they are hoping that someone cares enough to ask why.

“Is anyone listening?”

© 2001 Bob Perks


Is Anybody Listening?