When You're With Your People, They Don't Ask Questions
In the Loews hotel lobby in Philadelphia, I had a realization. I was surrounded by five other health advocates and a bunch of other random people. The problem with realizations, like ideas, is that they escape. I quickly toggled my phone awake and opened Evernote.
When you’re with your people...
They don’t ask questions.
That type of question
Now let’s get this straight: there were a lot of questions flying around in the Health Union offices that day, as advocates and writers for the HU community of sites gathered together (thanks, Health Union!). However, the questions that flowed weren’t that type of question: they weren’t the questions that only went surface deep and then stopped.
If we were asking questions about another’s experience, it was to genuinely try and more deeply understand their experience, understand their story. Yes, questions and answers satisfy our own curiosity—that’s the general nature of questions!
We asked and answered questions out of a desire to learn, to be more empathetic, to understand another person. The questions unfolded as someone told their story—and not before they were ready. They unfolded of conversation, not of pure observation from a complete stranger about something that is “different".
Questions built of compassion
That day, gathered with other advocates and writers in Philly for Health-Union Connexion, was freedom from questions of that nature. I felt free from questions I didn’t want to answer that pop up in my daily life and rub me the wrong way from people who I will never meet again but who are also too curious to keep their mouths shut about something that has no influence on them, something they don’t truly want to understand.
The difference with the ninety-plus other advocates is that I knew their curiosity got them where they were in their understanding of their own health circumstances, and because of that, they wanted to understand mine: because that knowledge might help them to help someone else later on. It was curiosity built on compassion and desire to know more, be better, rather than the normal, superficial “curiosity” we encounter. Is the coughing girl contagious or dying? Are you okay?!?!? Why are you limping? Did you hurt your leg?
These questions (especially about my leg) serve no real purpose other than to satisfy the curiosity of a person I will never meet again.
When you are with your people…
For two days, I was with my people. And they didn’t ask those questions.
I took my inhaler once without trying too much to hide, right in the middle of a room of 100+ people. Usually, I care about this and try to be stealthy or slip out of the room. Monday night, I didn’t, and instead laughed internally knowing I was in Respiratory Therapist John’s line of sight and it was so possible he would RT my inhaler technique, though he likely wouldn’t—because he gets it.
I tucked my crutch(es) under the table for much of the two days at Connexion, since I use them when I’m walking for more than a few minutes at a time and likely to bring on knee pain. In two days, I was asked just once about them, at breakfast on day 1 when reconnecting with Andrea who had seen my posts on Facebook, and was asking out of genuine concern—which is totally okay when it is from people who care about you and know you! Once she knew I was doing totally okay and they were helping me, that was all she needed to know.
When you’re with your people, they get you. They discover, and they move on to the important things.
Return to reality
On Tuesday night on the way home, Air Canada decided to give me a “delay - avoidable” (per my meal voucher), which extended my 2.5 hour layover in Toronto to a 12-hour layover. Air Canada then sent me to the YYZ Crowne Plaza hotel. I checked in, made a couple phone calls (to Air Canada to change me from the 8 AM to 10:05 AM flight, and to the front desk hoping my temporarily lost jacket had been intercepted between the airport and the hotel, hopefully on the shuttle—it had!). I then, sometime between midnight and 1 AM, went to the drink machine with just a few dollars and hotel key in my pocket.
In the elevator, I was nearly immediately asked if I’d hurt my leg as I simply stood there. The reprieve from the questions was over—I was back to reality. I didn’t owe these people an explanation, but I said something about my hip, my knee, and my crutches upstairs. I’m thankful that people don’t ask these kinds of questions every time I cough, but for the prying questions to enter my consciousness barely 12 hours following my realization about being with my people, well, it was a tad jarring!
People will ask questions. People will always be curious.
But when you’re with your people, they’ll ask the right questions, the right ways.
That’s how you know you’re with your people.
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