Say hello, people

By Austin Block

There’s a problem with the way we walk to class. To illustrate that problem, I’m going to start my argument with some questions: how many times per day do you avert your eyes as you walk past someone at school and pretend he/she doesn’t exist? How many times per day do you walk from one class to the other without lifting your eyes off the floor? How many times per day do you feel that awkward sensation as you struggle to make a split-second decision about whether or not to say hi to the person you sort of know that is heading in your direction? How does all of that feel?

For me, it feels pretty uncomfortable. When people ignore me, I start to wonder if they aren’t interested in talking to me or if they even know who I am. And when I ignore someone else, I feel guilty. I feel that I’ve been rude, that when I look at someone and then don’t say hi, I emanate an aura of unfriendliness. And the worst part of the whole awkward encounter is that every time I look away from someone when we cross paths, it gets harder and harder to break the trend, look him/her in the eye and say “hi,” the next time we meet.

This somewhat anti-social style of walking is a significant, though minor, problem on campus. We say we have community at Harvard-Westlake, but what kind of community do we really have when we can’t even summon the courage to say hi to each other in the hallways? What kind of atmosphere are we creating when we shut ourselves off from the outside world, trudging from Seaver to Rugby with our eyes fixed on some lifeless point in the distance?

As simple of an action as it is, I really believe that making the effort to say hi to a friend, acquaintance or even a stranger on campus strengthens the relationship between the two people. It shows that you care and that the person you greeted plays a positive, if small, role in your life. And at least for me, saying hi and receiving a quick smile in return feels good. It makes me feel like I am an involved member of a warm, tightly-knit school community.

So why not give it a try? Say hi to a few people you usually ignore the next time you meet them, and see what happens. You might rekindle or strengthen a friendship, and your day might get a little better.

I’m not advocating saying hi to everyone in sight at all times. If you tried to do that, you would be perpetually late to class. But do say hi sometimes. Say hi to me. I’ll say hi back. Or say hi to your 10th grade English teacher that you haven’t spoken to in a year. Maybe even try saying hi to a stranger on campus. But most importantly, say hi to your friends. It will help keep them close. The worst thing that could happen is that someone gives you a frown. And then you get to learn who your real friends are.