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Advice

A Simple “Hi” This Year Could Change Someone’s Life

school halls

Just. Say. Hi.

It is not that hard. It’s two letters. It’s a short sound.

Maybe it is hard for you. Maybe you’re new to town, or have social anxiety, or are in a rush, or are exhausted, or are going through something personal. Then just nod.

Acknowledge everyone you see. Because it can mean so much.

It’s the start of a new school year—and almost the start of a new Jewish year, too (bonus!). We are surrounded by new people, and often, we don’t know each other at all. It’s awkward to go up to new people and talk to them—or even to meet their eyes as we are on our way from event to event. It’s so much easier to default to just offering a hello to the people we know, ignoring those who uncomfortably shift from foot to foot in the background.

Please join me. Don’t ignore those people. Say hello to everyone. Whether you know them or not.

It may feel strange. It may feel weird. But I promise: It won’t kill you.

I thought about this as I walked into my kids’ school the other day and saw a person look over someone else’s head to say hi to a third person who was walking into school. It was, whether it was intentional or not, rude and unkind. I saw the second someone’s face fall as they thought they were being acknowledged, but in fact were being actively ignored.

As parents, I’d argue, it’s all the more important for us to model kindness for our kids. And it’s so easy to just do it.

These petty drive-by moments all hit home for me. Because 10 years ago, I was still at this same nursery school (I know, ridiculous), but my life was very, very different.

Ten years ago, I was a newly divorced mother of two nursery schoolers–a title, I can assure you, that no one wants, although I had fought tooth and nail to get it. I’d moved back into my parents’ house in the New Jersey suburb I’d grown up in, back into my own childhood room. I felt crushed and defeated, old before my time. I was wearing old maternity clothes, because all my disposable cash had gone to the divorce.

“I’ll meet people through the kids’ school,” I thought. “At least at drop-off and pickup.”

No one said hello.

Maybe it was because I radiated soul-crushing despair? Maybe it was because I was a disheveled mess, inside and out? Who knew? I only knew the result: These other women, put together and beautiful, could barely meet my eye, let alone reach out with a friendly word.

And I admit it: It hurt. Not nearly as much, of course, as I had already been hurt. But it was a daily sprinkling of salt in the fresh wounds.

But then, one person reached out to me and said, “Hi. You know, it’s my child’s birthday party on Sunday. Would your son like to come?”

Yes! Yes, yes, yes, thank you so much thank you for acknowledging that I exist OMG it is so hard to come to a new place and know no one in the middle of the year, because that is when the divorce agreement was signed yes yes yes!

“It’s no big deal,” she said.

Wrong, lady.

A “hi” might mean nothing to you. To someone else, it can be a lifeline.

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