A couple of weeks ago I took my daughter to a Gloria Jeans coffee shop for a drink. When we were at the counter I noticed an “RU OK Day” flyer, and said to her that a friend of mine is involved in running the initiative. We took a copy and read it while waiting for our drinks.
We chatted about other things for while and then I asked her if she was okay? She said “No. I’m not.” We then discussed her problems for an hour and a half. It was one of the most valuable conversations we’d had in her 11 years.
The next day I had one of the worst days I’d had in a long time, with a couple of pieces of upsetting news. In the evening my daughter asked me, genuinely, “Are you okay, Dad?”, which started another really good conversation.
Since then we’ve asked each other a few more times, more than casually, as to how the other is doing.
“Are you OK?” is just 3 short words. But how often do we ask those around us how they are, not expecting more than a perfunctory “yeah” or “no problem”? What if you knew the person’s response would be “No. I’m not OK.”? It would be tempting to not even ask. But just as I experienced, it can be a catalyst for a good conversation and helping someone just when they need it.
R U OK? Day aims to raise awareness on the importance of meaningful conversations and connections. It is a national day of action in Australia – and now spreading overseas – held every September 15. It emphasizes the need for positive encouragement among family members, friends and colleagues. By asking each other “Are you OK?” you initiate a conversation that may prevent small problems from becoming heavy burdens.
While this year 2011’s R U OK? Day was only the third, the campaign has generated a lot of support and awareness across the country. Well-known celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, and others have put their support behind the movement. Stories have been told and retold about how individuals, seemingly fine on the outside but suffering from severe stress in reality, broke down and clung to that listening ear when simply asked, “Are you OK?”
They say even the little things in life can make a big difference. You don’t need to wait until September 15, or live in Australia, to ask “R U OK?”