Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Say Hello

As we all know the calendar has become increasingly crowded with special days to commemorate this or that. Beyond the holidays honoring presidents, religious observances, military victories, ethnicities and civil causes, there are fun days like Valentine's Day, Halloween, Groundhog Day, and World Hello Day. That's right: World Hello Day. Founded as a day to make the world a friendlier place, November 21 is the day to dazzle that friend or co-worker by telling them hello. Now for those interested in promoting world peace and cross-cultural relations this could be done with an hola! a guten Tag! or an ahlan wasahlan! Then again, if Spanish, German or Arabic pronunciation worries have got you down, fear not! A simple "hullo" will do too.

Celebrated by people in more than 180 countries, World Hello Day began in 1973 in response to the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states. Its objective is simple: greet ten or more people on November 21. And the rationale driving this outlandish behavior? It's nothing less than the far-fetched notion that somehow personal, one-to-one communication is an important starting place for promoting world peace or -- if nothing else -- at least a little bit of goodwill. This annual day of smiles is the brainchild of brothers Brian and Michael McCormack, graduates, respectively, of Arizona State University and Harvard.

This simplest of gestures has been recognized by some pretty good company too. Thirty-one winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have acknowledged the value of World Hello Day, as an instrument for promoting peace and enhancing relationships between people everywhere. Now if you think about it, saying hello is not that big a deal, really. Yet, it's funny how a wave, a smile, even a nod cuts through our typical standoffishness like a knife through warm butter. Such is the power of this most basic of civilities that it seems to have a disarming quality about it. It's just a hello, but it's often a surprise to the person receiving it.

Cast a few out this Wednesday, and see what you get in return. You just might be surprised yourself.

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