Ask folks “How are you?” and, if pressed to elaborate on “fine,” they will give you a harried description of just how busy and stressed they are.
Our society is overwhelmed with a sense of “busyness” and it is not just adults. Try scheduling a play date for your child and you will have to be squeezed in between gymnastics, sporting events, tutoring and music lessons.
Technology was supposed to help by making our work faster, convenient and more efficient but, the fact is, it has only added to our busyness! Now we take home our business and, even while spending time with the family, pull out our smart phones to text and answer ceaseless e-mails 24 hours a day. Even vacations are spent checking in with the office or work.
Omid Safi, Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center, once wrote that the Arabic phrase to ask after a person is: Kayf haal-ik?, literally “how is your heart?” Similarly the Hebrew greeting is “Mah Sh’lomech?”, literally “how is your Shalom, your peace, your well-being?”
What a brilliant insight we gain from these simple greetings. When we ask, “How are you?” we don’t want to know about a person’s unending to-do list; we want to make a human connection. What is central is not what we do but what we are. “When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?” asks Safi.
Faster Internet connections do not enhance our lives, but deeper human connections do. Extracurricular activities may fill our time, but heart-to-heart human interactions fill our souls and sense of wellbeing: our Shalom.
Summer offers a time when some of us may slow our pace, reduce our stress, and reflect upon improving our “Shalom:” our sense of peace and well-being. If our lives are defined by busyness, perhaps we can seek more balance.
And when those around us tell us just how busy they are, let us remember to press, “I know how busy you are, but Mah Sh’lomech: how is your Shalom!”
And just maybe that will be the beginning of a human connection by which we can all find shalom together.
Rabbi Judy Chessin