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Hello you!
by Paul Thomas
2006-11-22 10:01:28
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Ni Hoa. Aloha. Shalom. Päivää. Szia. Konichiwa. Guten Tag. Hola. Bonjour. God Dag. Zdravstvuite. Merhaba. Kalimera. Bom Dia. Buenos dias and so on. November 21st, 2006, marks the 34th annual World Hello Day and it is an annual event to promote peaceful means, dialogue and personal communication over armed conflict to establish and maintain world peace.

WHD was created by Brian and Michael McCormack in 1973 and was inspired by the lack of successful dialogue throughout the conflict between Egypt and Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973-74. The McCormacks began the process by sending hundreds of letters in many different languages to as many world leaders, heads of states and influential personalities as they could explaining the concepts behind the first World Hello Day.

The replies they received from luminaries such as Queen Elizabeth II, the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, the International Peace Bureau, Jack Nicklaus and Stevie Wonder to name but a few, encouraged Brian and Michael to promote the event annually. The date of November 21st was chosen and this day has been acknowledged as WHD ever since.

Participation in World Hello Day is simple and involves a minimal amount of effort and some (metaphorical) balls. All you need to do is say 'hello' or express positive regards towards ten strangers on this day, it really is that simple! You could probably get away with a wave if you are trapped inside or a smile if you have a sore throat.

By greeting ten people, the message you are putting across is for world leaders to engage in peaceful dialogue instead of resorting to force to resolve conflicts. "It lets everyone in the world contribute to the process of creating peace," says Michael McCormack. This may seem a little hopeful, but it is one alternative to watching from the sidelines and simply shaking your head in dismay.

Even if you feel that little can be achieved by such a small gesture, take a leaf out of Bob Perk's book. Inspired by a similar need to say hello and engage in dialogue he wrote a short story called I Wish You Enough and his tale examines how he found it difficult to express goodbyes to people and how he often ended up regretting it later on. To counteract this problem, he now goes out of his way to engage strangers in polite conversation, complimenting someone on their work, or by simply making positive comments in conversation. He was encouraged by how these simple acts could make both participants in the conversation feel a little happier.

This use of random greetings and compliments has inspired lesser mortals too. British author Danny Wallace has written a book called Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Ways to Make the World a Nicer Place and, in the book, he encourages his readers to perform a weekly act of kindness for a stranger to make them both feel a bit better. The book has inspired people all over the world to do something to enhance a stranger's life in some way. One review of the book simply states: 'This book will enrich your will and marinate it in pure niceness and joy'.

If you feel encouraged to do something random, then today is the day to give it a go. A simple smile and a hello will make someone feel special and cheer them up a little. It may also have a domino effect on the recipients of your gestures, who knows. If you don't enjoy it, forget about it; the chances are you won't have to ask that person for a character reference in the future anyway. However, they may tell their friends that someone tried to start a conversation with them or help them out today, so don't sweat it! Hopefully it will catch on.

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Sand2006-11-21 18:22:54
As a former New Yorker I am familiar with the sliding glance and the averted eye. This is to protect one's self from a request for a handout. My experience here in Helsinki seems different from the comments I have seen in these pages. If you look passersby here in the eye as you pass, they will frequently nod and say "Terve".

Päivi2006-11-23 22:16:54
The really brave ones give a hug! :) Quite touching this.

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