A few years ago, my wife and I decided to head south to Florida for a few days of rest in the sun. After dealing with some particularly difficult ministry issues (which is minister code for dealing with difficult people), a very long drive, and haggling over our reservations, I decided to hang out by a beach resort watering hole for a Coke (yes, a Coke, not a rum and coke). As I sat there waiting for the drink, the bartender, apparently discerning my ragged demeanor, looked at me and said, “Are you doing alright?” Like most people, and without candor, I replied, “Fine, I’m just fine.” I appreciated his inquiry, but I was dumbfounded. I remember thinking to myself, “You had to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles and sit at an oceanside bar and grill just to get someone to ask you how you are doing.” Of all the people in the world, a total stranger (a bartender) had to ask me how I was doing.
Far from turning the episode into a pity party, I was, rather, challenged by the thought of the thousands and thousands of people we come across in our lives each year that are never asked that question as well. How could something so simple matter so much? People all around us are going through difficult situations, challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. George M. Adams famously said, “Encouragement is oxygen for the soul.” This amazing truth explains, like oxygen, people need positive input from others because it is a vital (life-giving and life-sustaining) need. The well-timed, sincere, and compassionate inquiry into the lives of others can have a powerful and positive impact on them during the darker seasons of life. “Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time” (Proverbs 15:23, NLT).
Perhaps we are all just too busy to stop and consider how others around us are doing. Perhaps we just assume that the people around us are doing just fine. As the bartender had the presence of mind to ask, let me challenge you to be mindful of others and look for ways to send some oxygen their way. Become a walking oxygen bar dispensing life-giving encouragement everywhere you go. You never know who you will encourage and inspire by your kindness.