I was 10 years old when I first witnessed the power of saying hi. I was getting on a public transit bus with my dad. As we walked inside, my dad greeted the bus driver with a huge smile on his face. In a cheerful and confident voice, he said “Hi there!” I remember feeling embarrassed at the time because my dad was being loud and friendly to someone he didn’t even know. I didn’t realize at the time, that there was an abundance of good that came out in his simple greeting.
How many times in the age of smartphones do you find yourself in a situation where everyone is looking at a screen, including you? You get sucked into the vortex of Facebook stalking or replying to a message to someone that just cannot wait (but really can). It’s easily done. I’ve been there. The sad part is that you are depriving the world around you of, well, you. By prioritizing the screen in front of us, we are missing out on connecting with others. We become validated by the number of “likes” or followers, instead of the recognition we could give each other just by saying hello.
My dad acknowledged another human being that day on the bus. He recognized that the driver was a person and treated him with respect. By simply saying “hi”, he was able to show the driver that he was valued. This has become an important practice in my every day as an educator. I smile and say hi to every student, staff member and visitor that I pass in the hallway. By doing this, I am able to contribute to a friendlier and more inclusive climate, where each person is valued for simply being. This practice has helped me connect and build rapport with colleagues, parents and students. My recess duty is a lot easier because I know the students, and they are more willing to listen to me because of this. Working with other staff members has also been easier because they know me, and we have connected at some point in the hallway. Building rapport with parents has also been a bonus with saying hello. Overall, it contributes to a supportive atmosphere for students, teachers and parents. It can promote the sense of community in any workplace.
The simple act of saying hello also boosts confidence. I am always happy when I get a smile back. I feel content helping someone know they are important and they are valued. I step out of my comfort zone and reach out, which makes it easier each time I do it. Every opportunity I get, I practice this small act so I can connect with the people around me. Life is short and a smile not only makes me feel good, it makes others feel good around me, which makes me feel even better. Someone could be having the worst kind of day. They could be feeling alone or troubled by a situation in their life. We really don’t know what someone else might be going through. Sometimes a reassuring smile and greeting, can be the turning point of their day. It might be the one thing they needed to realize that everything is going to be okay because they are valued. Knowing I could be lifting someone’s spirits makes me feel better about who I am.
It’s a simple thing that can be done to bring a little bit of joy to someone else. I am sometimes met with uncertainty. People wonder if I really did say hi, or wonder if I am talking to them. That’s why I make sure I make eye contact and smile, so they know I mean to speak to them. Sometimes I still don’t get a hi back, but that doesn’t matter. Because long after that person has gone, I can hold my head high knowing I showed respect for another human being.
As an adult, I see how truly simple and powerful it was for my dad to greet that bus driver with a smile that day. My reaction of embarrassment at the time tells me it’s not the norm to walk around with a smile on your face all the time, greeting others. Shouldn’t it be though? Building a sense of community by acknowledging others can have a hugely positive affect on the world around us. We are all human beings and we are all in this together. You never know who you might be saying hello to and what amazing opportunities open up to you or someone else because you connected with someone. So let’s start putting our phones down more and try saying a simple hi to that elderly person sitting beside you on the bus, or the cashier checking out your groceries, or your neighbour that you haven’t introduced yourself to yet. Life is not always easy, but by saying a simple hello, we can help make life more enjoyable.