My daughter’s mother immigrated to the US from Russia when she was 21 years old. Karen was and is a very intelligent woman, bi-lingual with only a slight Russian accent. She has accomplished much in her life including beating cancer and become a nurse practitioner.
I forced myself to learn some Russian so I would at least know what topic was being spoken of when I was together with her family, her mother, brother and sister-in-law. I called it “self-defense Russian” which basically means I knew enough to know when they were talking about me.
My daughter also grew up bi-lingual as did her sister. Grandma speaks very little if any English so being able to speak Russian is a necessity for them.
When it comes to language Russians are much more to the point, are more measured in what they say and speak with a certain economy of words.
One day while I was hanging out with Karen’s brother, Alex, we started talking about how Americans greet each other by saying, “Hi, how are you?” Alex said, “You silly Americans, you ask me how are you, but you don’t really want to know so WHY DO YOU ASK”?
That has really stuck with me over the years. It has changed me enough so that I try not to greet people that way unless I really want to know. It seems more sincere to simply say hello.
Now when people say to me “How are you?” I will often ask them if they really want to know. You see, as Americans, most of the time we are just saying hello and don’t really care how people are doing because we are so absorbed with our own issues. I get that. I am the same way sometimes.
I have also found that sometimes just a kind word or taking a moment to be present with someone, to look in their eyes and ask them how they are doing is all it takes to turn their day around. We never know how the little things we do and say affect the people around us.
Is it really so hard to take just a moment and give someone a smile, a nice word or something as simple as acknowledging their presence? I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a room and people don’t even look up. Pretty sad state of affairs. Don’t even get me started on cell phones.
If you see me on the street sometime soon and I ask you how you are, it’s because I really want to know.