This I Believe

Ken - mill valley, California
Entered on September 15, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe in the power of saying hello. I think it is one of the most American and democratic things a person can do on a daily basis to make your neighborhood, our country and the world a better place. It is free, easy and powerful and it is just downright nice.

A simple hello can help to break through social, racial, economic, age, language and gender barriers. Defensive stereotypes fade away, smiles occur and a small gap in time is created where two people are communicating in the most simple of ways. In virtually any situation, when someone says hello the natural reaction is to respond and to say hello. On that small basis, doors open and great things can happen.

I can remember as a small boy that everywhere I went with my Dad he would say hello to anyone within shouting distance. It did not matter if they were men, women, kids, owners, workers or my friends. Often I was hoping he would talk just to me on our outings but when I saw the way all the adults lit up I realized he was on to something that may have come naturally as an Irishman but applied to everyone. As an aside, I must admit that most of the kids were a bit tongue tied to have attention focused on them, especially when he attached his trademark question regarding their “love life”. In this way I was introduced to and to observe in practice the magical power of hello.

Over the year I have seen this play out numerous times. I remember walking down an unfamiliar street in the back country of China years ago. I had only learned about three words of the language on trip there but one of the words was hello and it brought out smiles I can still envision to this day. The people just could not believe a foreigner was saying hello in their language and they went out of their way to get me to my destination.

When I lived in NY years later, saying hello was a natural part of the morning routine as I entered my building and passed the same attendant . On that traumatic morning in September ’01 the power of those hellos came back to me. The woman I spoke with daily gave me some good advice about how the trains were not working, which direction would be good to walk towards in the hopes of getting a bus and eventually home to my family. I moved all the away to SF as a result of that day and while there are plenty of bad memories , I like focus on the good ones that include having had a friend who pointed me in the right direction on the basis of our daily hellos. You can bet I say hello to our building attendants in my new place of work.

Little things, free things make all the difference between a good day and one leaving people wondering where all the warmth has gone. Finding a dollar bill unexpectedly in your pocket makes you feel great, , saying hello and receiving a big smile back is like two people finding a dollar in their pocket simultaneously. There is nothing like the instant of understanding that you can see spreading across someone’s face when they realize, yes, you are talking to them and no they are not invisible and we are all in this together.

Politicians can argue all day long on social spending but saying hello is in your control, doesn’t increase taxes and can make more of a difference in somebody’s day than all those programs combined.

To misapply the Beatles lyrics, “some say Good bye but I say hello ..Hello, Hello”