How are you?
Are you fine?
It's so easy to say, "I'm fine," (even when you're not) when someone asks you how you're doing. It's almost an automatic response, especially when the question comes from a store clerk or someone you don't really know that well.
Last night I was out picking up some groceries for the week and had an interesting exchage with my cashier, a young guy who couldn't have been more than 20 years old. He asked me the customary, "how's your day going?". Yesterday was a great day, so I said something like, "I'm having a really great day! How's your day going?" His answer and my response surprised me a little bit - probably the most honest exchange I'd ever had with a store cashier.
Him: Not so great
Me: Oh, because you're working?
Him: No, actually being here is great. It's stuff outside of work.
The minute he said that, I actually saw the pain in his eyes, the pain of whatever he brought into work with him. My heart broke a little.
Me: Dude, I hope everything works out for you. Hang in there!
I can remember being in that sort of pain and trying to hold it together for the outside world, trying to make it seem like everything really was fine. How brave to actually say he wasn't fine to a complete stranger. People are resiliant and can bounce back from whatever pain they're experiencing, whether it's emotional or physical. That's the good news and what makes the great/amazing days even that much better.
My exchange with last night's cashier is going to make me think twice about how I answer "how are you?" Life's been good lately, so the answer is pretty easy. May I be brave enough when it's not to at least say something other than "I'm fine".