This I Believe

Marita - No. Bellmore, New York
Entered on June 25, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

Learning to Say Hello

I believe that learning to say hello can make a significant positive difference in one’s life. I learned to say hello from my husband who is a high school teacher and a retired New York City Police Detective. His ability to make eye contact and greet virtually anyone has been a valuable tool, especially when he was starting out as a foot patrol officer. I am sure that making personal contact with ordinary citizens helped them to view my husband as a human being and not just an authority figure. In his day to day work with young people, a few kind words can penetrate the tough exterior that often surrounds adolescence and can soften the blows of everyday teenage existence.

When we first began our relationship more than 25 years ago, I would resent his kind attention to the different people he would encounter when he was with me. I felt a little neglected when he would strike up a brief conversation with the woman in the grocery store or the waiter in the restaurant or wave to the man watering the flowers across the street. I felt that I should be getting all his attention and I also worried that I was not enough for him. When I finally asked my husband why he felt the need to acknowledge almost everyone he encounters, he said that a few words don’t cost anything, and besides, you never know how that interaction might benefit you later on.

So I decided to experiment with his philosophy and tried to be more actively conscious of the people I encountered everyday and I began to notice small results. I started with a wave to the woman around the corner that I passed everyday. The next time I saw her she waved first and it felt surprisingly good, heartwarming. I am polite and an introvert by nature, so I always say please and thank you at the corner deli, but it took an extra effort to comment on the weather or to compliment the owner on the changes he made to the store. I found that each time I went in to purchase something our exchanges grew and we have grown to be friendly acquaintances.

I came to realize what my husband had already learned; that acknowledging the existence of others not only contributes in a positive way to their lives, but it enriches my own existence as well. Each time I reach out my life begins to overlap and becomes intertwined with other lives. My world gets a little bigger and I feel more grounded and less alone. Learning to say hello is essential to feeling connected to others. This I believe.