“Jambo” is the word for “hello” in Swahili. When you walk the street in rural Kenya, even women carrying 20-gallon buckets of water on their heads will greet you with a big smile and a “jambo.” The custom is contagious. You find yourself saying hello to every person who passes you on the street. By the end of the day, you feel connected to the people in the community because the hello requires eye contact, which forces you to be in the moment and engage with the person in front of you.
Unfortunately, the custom of greeting random strangers with a hello isn’t as customary in most cities in the United States as it is in Kenya. We walk throughout society as strangers, with our heads down focused on our smartphones. We pass people without even noticing them because we have headphones on, and we’re consumed by our favorite song. So many distractions make it easy not to engage with strangers – but that social interaction is very important physically and mentally.
This week’s 52 Week Be Better Challenge is to greet strangers with a random hello. Specifically in the moments when you would normally be distracted by your phone, set it aside and look for opportunities to engage with strangers. Examples could be grocery shopping, working out at the gym, standing in line at the post office, etc. We love the anonymous quote, “A simple hello could lead to a million things.”
This week, when you post a #bebetter52 picture, tell us about your experience. Was it just a hello and a smile? Did the hello spark a conversation? Did it lead to the start of a friendship? Make sure to add the hash tag #bebetter52 and #justsayhello.
Why the hashtag #justsayhello? Well, Just Say Hello is an awesome campaign Oprah is championing to fight loneliness. According to the book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connectionby John T. Cacioppo, one in five people in the U.S suffers from loneliness. The book states, “Loneliness is hardly just a social issue; its physical impacts are among the most profound in modern medicine. Air pollution, obesity, and excessive alcohol use have been found to increase a person's mortality risk by 6, 23, and 37 percent, respectively. Loneliness may increase your risk by a shocking 45 percent.” The simple act of saying hello can brighten a day and impact health.
It is easy to be so wrapped up in our own world that we forget to make eye contact and extend a greeting. We all have a lot on our mind, so much so that we live in the world within our mind more than in the world around us. If we shift that focus to the world outside our head, the power of that hello can be extremely impactful. This week make eye contact, smile at someone and say hello. By reminding yourself to say hello, you contribute to a better community and environment.
Check out the Just Say Hello Video.