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Thought for the Day: Answering the Question, "How are you?"

Stop me if I've told you this before.  Oh wait... you can't.  I mean, you can stop reading, but you can't stop me from writing.  Since I don't know if you are reading anyway, that doesn't really stop me.  Cool.

I think that is an apt introduction to the following statement: It can be tedious/frustrating to talk with me, as I tend to analyze everything.  (Some would say "over analyze"; I am not among them, but I am  certainly a sympathizer.)  I can trace this trait back to a lesson from by grandfather.  Grandpa was a professor of electrical engineering and nationally recognized educator.  He was in many, many ways my role model.  When I was about 10 he decided to teach me about how radios work.  Grandpa first explained the theory (which I will happily share with anyone who asks).  Then he drew a simple circuit, formulated a simple construction plan, gave me the materials and told to make it.  I nailed the big components onto a piece of wood and then soldered all the wires according to my reading of the diagram.  There were wires strung taught across components on the board and big globs of solder everywhere.  I was so proud.  Till I tried it... nothing.  No sound.

I was sure that grandpa had made a mistake and I asked him what was wrong.  He didn't answer.  What he did do was to unsolder all the wires and clean up the globs of solder.  Then he wired it again using the the same wiring diagram, this time routing everything neatly.  It worked.  I whined that I had done exactly the same thing... why didn't mine work?  "I don't know", he said, "Yours was too much of a mess to figure out."

Whether he meant that as a life lesson or not, I took it that way.  I have since made it my point to clarify anything and everything and make all my ideas as neat and in order as possible.

So let's take the seemingly simple question, "How are you?"  I do not ask it as substitute for "hello"; when I ask it, I really want an answer.  Maybe not a complete medical history, but at least "dashboard" sort of answer that indicates your general well being.  However, the statement "Baruch HaShem" is not an acceptable answer.  You can't even expect me to be able to infer from that simple statement if you mean things are going well or not going well.  When I was undergoing chemotherapy, I would have told you things were going great, but the weakness in my voice might have led you think otherwise.  And please, please, PLEASE to not tell me, "It's all good!"... Aaargh... The Torah talks about good and bad, Chazal said to give thanks for good as well as bad; so am siding with them on this one.

Here's what I answer: I am doing well (or not... depending), Baruch HaShem, thank you!  How are you?  Here's why:
  1. Since you asked about my well being, I did an inventory.  My initial reply is an answer to your question.  Common courtesy, you asked an informational question, you deserve a reply.
  2. Now that I did that inventory, though, it got me thinking and realizing how much goodness I have in my life and how often I forget to thank my Creator.  Therefore, I make an exclamation of thanks to the Author my life and all goodness in it: Baruch HasShem!
  3. Since you got me thinking about all that by your thoughtfulness in asking about my well being, I owe you an expression of gratitude.
  4. You have me given me a gift; the opportunity to look at my life and well being and then to give thanks and praise to the Creator.  I feel compelled to return the gift in kind: How are you?
True enough, I don't know if my grandfather meant that crystal radio project (or any of the other myriad of projects he assigned me) as a life lesson.  However, I believe he would not be disappointed that I took it that way.  Moreover, HaShem made him my grandfather, so surely HaShem is pleased that I have taken His gifts and tried to apply them to my entire life.


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