The Importance of Hello

On a recent trip to Mexico I was struck by the by the way everyone smiles, makes eye contact and says ‘hello’ when they walk by.  In this day when the vast majority of people I pass in my neighborhood are plugged into ear phones or on the phone, I realized that I have stopped bothering to say hello to people I pass, and, as a result, I have stopped making eye contact with them.  

An essential part of developing the heart-mind is building positive social interactions for our children with a variety of adults and other children.  When I think of my own childhood, I had some adopted grandmas and aunties in my neighborhood and a couple of other families whose homes I spent almost as much time in as my own. 

While I would say that I had fewer of these neighborhood social connections than my parents' generation did, and I always had to let my parents know whose house I was at, I know very few children who have any neighborhood social relationships today.  I don’t even know my neighbors' names.  I also know that one of the main reasons parents do not just send their children outside to play is because of fears for their children’s safety.  It is much harder to think your neighbors are axe murders or child abusers when you know your neighbors are Bill and Joan and their two kids who love dancing, and your other neighbor is a retired police officer.  It also gives your children a wider security net if they do need help or a band aid, if they know they can go to your neighbor’s house.  I am therefore making a vow to start saying hello to people I pass in my neighborhood again and to getting to know my neighbor.

It is also interesting to look at the groups of people who are out and about in the neighborhood. And dog walkers are one of the main groups who come to mind. In many communities it would seem that children have been replaced by dogs as the most numerous creatures on the street! The accidental meetings that characterize ‘walking the dog’ bring members of this group closer together, building those social and community bonds. We can learn from them: let’s find time to just go for a walk with the kids in the evening, down to the local park…and say hello to everyone we see on the way!



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