Many years ago, I heard the comedian, George Carlin, saying how he dislikes the way Americans ask, “How are you?” and then answer with the dismissive, “Fine.” He pondered, “What would happen if we didn’t answer ‘Fine’? What if we replied, ‘I’m moderately neato!’ or ‘I’m just above average, thank you’?” I agreed with Carlin, in that our mechanical response ends a potential conversation when we simply reply with, “Fine.” It’s as if we’re saying, “I don’t want to really engage with you so I’ll politely dismiss you with ‘Fine.’”
Taking Carlin’s message to heart, I resolved to reply with something other than, “Fine,” to see what happened. So, when someone asked, “How are you?” I started responding with, “Peachy!” This went on for a while until friends actually started referring to me as “Peachy.” But at least we were engaging each other! I’m also responded to “How are you?” with “I’m well hydrated,” or “Better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow.” Those inquiring of my mental status are usually pleasantly surprised by answers like these. You have now informally invited them into a real exchange of thoughts.
One day at work a co-worker, Laura, passed me in the hall. She smiled. “Hey, Cris, how are you?” To which I replied, “I’m awesome!” as I passed. We each kept walking and I didn’t give it another thought. Laura stopped, wheeled around and called out. “Hey. You’re always awesome. Why?”
“Why?!” That took me quite off guard. Suddenly, something quickly came to mind. “Well,” I replied, “I have an awesome God.” I smiled, thinking that would satisfy her and turned to continue walking away. Usually, when you mention God in the workplace, it’s a real conversation ender. I had crossed into forbidden land and thought that would surely end the interaction.
Instead of walking away, Laura became very serious. “But, I have the same awesome God you do, and I’m not always awesome.” Laura was a young single woman, and feeling far less-than-awesome that particular day. I saw real honest interest in her face that moment and melted. I walked over closer.
“Can we go to lunch sometime? I’d love to tell you about how my awesome God makes my life awesome everyday.”
Laura agreed. Later that week we met in a very public cafeteria (to keep it honest and above suspicion) and during that lunch I shared with her the joy I receive from investing my life in a personal relationship with God. I gave her ideas for retreats, Bible studies, Christian music, and good books. In short, I showed her that investing in a relationship with God is easy, if you just take the time to find the right tools. And if you invest in an awesome God, you start to leverage what Jesus called, “The life more abundant.”
That little exchange in the hallway, which all began with a snarky reply to the question, “How are you?” led to a great opportunity for ministry, and God used me to reach a lonely young woman who was seeking life more abundant.
It just goes to show; you never know when or how God may use you to witness to someone. So, the next time someone asks, “How are you?” how will you answer? Looking back, I believe “I’m blessed beyond measure,” may have been a better answer than, “I’m awesome!” But, I’m so glad God used that opportunity to minister to a lonely person through a snarky George Carlin wannabe.