Lone seagrass frond sticking out of sand.

Are You OK?

The Accident

“Are you OK?” she yelled.

The voice, thin and far away, brought me back to consciousness. My 11-year old cheek lay on the rough asphalt, my body still numb from the collision.

“Hey,” the woman yelled again, “Didja hear me? You OK?”

I opened my eyes to see a woman peering at me from her station wagon window. She was across the street, and had apparently slowed down for a moment to inquire.

I stared for a moment, noticing her red hair. Yeah, I knew her. This was the mom of the red-headed boy in our 5th grade class.


I imagine what might have been going through her head when she saw me splayed out on the road, unconscious, my bike nearby:

“Woah, what’s this? Is this kid OK? I guess I’ll slow down and yell. Hope she’s not hurt real bad!

But I sure will feel better about going about my day if I slow down. I know what…think I’ll scream at her till she regains consciousness, and get the answer I want. That will not only satisfy my curiosity, but my sense of civic duty, too…

Hey, isn’t that kid in my son’s class?”

Mere speculation, certainly. Our inquiries into each other’s “OK status” no doubt come from many multi-layered motivations. I’m being just a bit rueful. Perhaps she had cared.

Are you OK?

You’ve had countless such inquiries. People see that you are in a bad way. You are in the valley. They care.

Your child’s just been diagnosed with something pretty scary.

Your husband may or may not come back.

Your mom, or dad, or child just died.

Are you OK?

Well, no, actually. That’s what I wish I had said to the red-headed driver.

The Truth

I wonder what might have transpired had I had the adult wisdom in a little girl’s mind. If I had know at the time how to speak up. To speak truth.

“NO! Actually, lady, I’ve been knocked clean unconscious. Will need a bit of healing up, in the hours and months to follow—stitches, a cast, a new front tooth. Could you please go get my mom?”

But, ever the child of duty, I knew the expected reply.

What I Said

I stared back at Red while assessing my situation. I must have crashed, hit my head, or something.

The last thing I remembered was this massive rock right in front of my wheel. Yes, that’s right, I had been having a blast, sailing down the hill at “ramming speed”. They had closed off this dangerous bit of road from cars. But what a daredevil’s paradise.

From one ripped-up asphalt mogul to the next, I rode downhill at epic speeds. Surely a gold-medal performance. But, alas.

The agony of defeat.

What my dazed self really told Red, in those first moments of regained consciousness, was just some automatic schlock. I hadn’t really checked in and asked myself, “Am I OK?”

It would take many years later before I got curious.

“Yeah,” I heard my voice answer. “Yeah, I’m OK.”

I mean, wasn’t that the answer she wanted?

Satisfied, she took her foot off the brake. I sat up and watched the station wagon drive away.


Carefully extricating myself from the road, I looked at my bloodied hand and ripped up jeans. That’s when I started shaking. I Picked up my bent-up one-speed, and leaning heavily on its banana-seat, I limped home.

Turns out that I would be fine, eventually. I would heal up, and I would learn that I actually was not bullet proof.

That’s the way it is, yes? We get knocked around, and we (hopefully) eventually heal up. We might have a few scars and fake teeth to remind us of the day, but they don’t hurt when poked. Scars, they are. Not wounds still, which do indeed cause pain when poked or prodded.

The only tiny little bright spot was a sense of being, for a very few days, something special. At school, I enjoyed a somewhat “celebrity status”. I was the girl with the plaster cast. A few people, (mostly my family) wrote messages on it.

Get Over It!

I used to think that avoiding discomfort was a pretty good idea. I mean, if a past event caused even mild distress (never mind acute heartache, or angst) better to be rid of it, put it behind you. Better to move on, think of something else, “leave the past in the past”.

I mean, why would dwelling on past pain do anybody any good? Doesn’t that just keep alive a spirit of bitterness? “I want to forgive and forget,” I might have said, once. I’ve learned a more balanced approach, I think.

But more on that, another day.

How Are You?

How about you? How are you doing? Are you fine?

It’s a funny question. It always seems like there is only one right answer. The expected answer comes as a sweet relief to the questioner.

“Oh! Are you OK?” They worriedly ask, with concern marked upon their foreheads.

You know the line.

“Yes, I am fine.”

And sometimes that is OK, isn’t it, to say that? I mean, do they really want to hear your dreary list of current struggles? And do you really want to share, anyway?

Some might persist. “No, but are you really OK? I’ve been so worried about you.”

And so to these, we might give a little bit more. Maybe we’ve been tempted to hand out the “spiritual reply”, the one that helps them to walk away happy. (After all, it’s my job to fix their anxiety, right? NOO!!) It might go like this:

“The Lord is right here with us. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future,” we recite.

And our weak smile convinces them, and our faith statement satisfies them, and they are relieved. Off the hook. Not their concern, any more. Sweet.

In these times, people need us to be OK so that they will be OK; because if we are not OK, they might experience discomfort.

Perhaps our not being OK would cause them confusion—“What if they are not OK? I’ve not a clue here…what to say or do in their suffering… sure hope they’re OK.”

But it was nice of them to ask.

Honest Parenting: Truth with Hope

“Mom, are you OK?” Is the question that has always elicited my most affirmative response. I did not ever want my children worried about me. Still today I have to remind myself to check the reaction, and respond with the truth.

For many decades my responses had nearly always been, “Oh, yes, honey, I’m fine.”

And why, oh why, did I do that? Born to it, I guess. Perhaps most of us were programmed thus. However, by responding that way, I basically taught my children, unwittingly, these absurdities:

What NOT to Say

“So when life is super hard, just force a smile. And when people care, be sure to own their discomfort for them—discomfort which you imagine your struggle is causing. Don’t let them grow in empathy, in prayer, or in authentic relating.

“Don’t offer an example of what suffering might look like in real time: some tears, some struggle, some confusion; some healing, some insights, some growth. Hide the hard stuff from them (as if they don’t see it anyway!)

“Don’t teach them how to take time to be present in the pain with another human being. Just smile, and put up a brave-looking but in fact very false front.

“Like a great big western “false front” in front of the saloon, in the best shoot-em’ up flick you ever did see, there in the wild west, fake it till ya make it.”

None of us meant to or mean to, now in the present, teach our children to hide their feelings behind a smile. We would not purposely leave such a legacy.

I believe most of mean well; we don’t want our kids burdened with our burdens. We never want to use them as supports for buoying us up in our miseries and brokenness. But honestly? I wish I had known more, then, and that I had done it better.

A Better Way

But it’s not too late! We can do better, now. With honest, careful thought, our honest interactions with those questioners might look something like one of these:

“Are you OK?”…“No. But I will be.”

“Are you OK?”…“Not yet. But I’m on my way.”

“Are you OK?”…“I am OK if you mean, is everything going to be OK. But for right now, I’m feeling really sad.”

Or overwhelmed, or confused, or human, or mortal, or normal.

“Are you OK?”…“I’m struggling. But I know that God knows what is going on, and one more thing: Jesus is here. He promised to be. So it will be OK.”

“Are you OK?”…“It feels really hard right now. But I’ve gone through some rough patches before. And I know that this is not the end. We’re gonna make it. It’s gonna be OK.”

Perhaps this might be some way to impart the reality of the truth, with the hope that Jesus gives us, even in the hard stuff.

And the caring inquirer, child or not, is given this gift—this opportunity to share a life that is authentic, an experience that takes them out of their lives a minute, and offers a shared, meaningful moment, together. Maybe in silence. Maybe in hugs. Maybe over tea or cocoa and staring into the fire, together, in the dark.

Dark days come. That’s part of the deal, here, on earth. Why not go for the authentic answer, instead?

A Prayer

Dear Lord, You say in your Word that you desire truth in the innermost being, and that You teach us wisdom in the innermost place. Thank you for being so concerned about our innermost selves. Thank you for your gentle instruction, how you teach us, guide us, and ever help us to become more and more like you. Lord, Your Word says that we are to be imitators of God, as beloved children. We want to be like you, in every way, so help us learn to be honest, and genuine, and full of love, just like You. You say to not let kindness and truth leave us, but to write these two directives on the tablets of our hearts. Help us to do just that! Amen.