How many times each day do you either ask or respond to that question? We’re very good at asking it of those that we are close to, and being genuinely concerned about their response and their welfare. But what of complete strangers?
I’ve recently returned to cycle commuting. It’s wonderfully liberating to start and end each working day with a cycle, and as my commute is a significant distance, it gives me plenty of time to both unwind from work, and ponder things that I’ve either read, heard or seen. My journey to and from work is taken by a number of other cyclists, and there is a lovely sense of camaraderie or joie de vivre (can it really be ‘camaraderie’ when encounters are so fleeting? Perhaps joie de vivre’s ‘exultation of spirit’ captures it better…) when cyclists pass each other and briefly raise a gloved hand from the handlebars, or nod of a cycle helmet in acknowledgement or greeting. Occasionally there is enough breath to say “Hello”, or a sarcastically sanguine “Turned out nice again” owing to the joy that is the west coast of Scotland’s rain.
Occasionally, you meet someone who has had to stop at the side of the road, more often than not to repair a puncture. It’s lovely to see other travellers offering assistance, starting with the phrase we hear so often – “Are you ok?” How life affirming it is to hear complete strangers offering assistance, and being concerned about the welfare of others.
You might not cycle to work, or meet people fixing punctures often, but each day you come across complete strangers who would benefit from you asking such a simple question – “Are you ok?” What’s the worst that could happen? You end up talking to someone you’d rather not talk to. What’s the best that could happen? Two people enjoy a lift of spirit over a simple interaction.
Perhaps ‘joie de vivre’ is a better phrase after all…
Image Credit: Mark-Hobbs.