Several years ago, I traveled to Chiapas, Mexico, with the Incarnate Word Sisters. We touched down in Villahermosa in inky darkness and traveled to the heart of the city where bars were doing a brisk and noisy business. The next morning we traveled by bus up through the clear air of the mountains in Chiapas.
Our home base was a coffee plantation owned by the Ch’ol Indians. The sisters have been partners in Nich Klum Cafe for decades, working with the tribe to build an international coffee company. During that week I learned the mechanics about growing organic coffee–from seedlings in the greenhouse to beans forming in the fields. That the best coffee was shipped to Europe, the second-best to the United States, and the rest was left for Mexico.
Gregorio was my guide. He spoke four languages–I speak one. At the start of each day his greeting translated not as “How are you?” but as “How are you in your heart?”
When people ask “How are you?” the expected answer is “fine” or at the very least “okay.” It is a superficial question.
“How are you in your heart?” That is a deeper question that places us in relationship.
Although I don’t say, “How are you in your heart?” I try to keep that question in my mind and read between the lines as I go through the day.
- How is my friend who lost her husband six months ago really doing?
- How is my relative who is recuperating from a broken hip at home alone really coping?
- How is a colleague who has a new supervisor really adjusting?
And I take an extra few minutes to listen. To see the day through their eyes. To give encouragement, a kind word or an unexpected note in the mail. To be present.
How are you in your heart?
I hear their heart and I hear mine.