Hero of the Month

Posted June 30, 2010 by wgulley
Categories: Just Say Hi Heroes

June 2010: Julie Taylor

Every neighborhood should have one. Someone everyone knows because s/he is so friendly. Someone who enjoys chatting to you when you pass by. Someone who makes a point of meeting new neighbors who have moved in, and introducing neighbors to each other.

In my neighborhood, that person is Julie Taylor. Julie is a people person and a party girl. She and her husband Jeff have hosted many gatherings of neighbors over the years, including block parties in front of their house, with Jeff’s band entertaining us. She sends out a relaxed, “don’t worry, be happy” vibe. Life threw Julie a curveball called cancer a few years ago, with exhausting chemotherapy rounds, but she has weathered it all with fortitude and humor.

When my first order of “Just Say Hi” t-shirts came in, Julie was one of the first people I gave one too (sorry, I’m not giving them away anymore). I asked her back then a question that I would also like to ask my readers: If someone is walking towards you but is looking down or away from you, do you still say “hi”? Julie answered “yes”, without hesitation. What do you think? By looking away, is someone sending a signal to you that they want to be left alone? Or should you say “hi” anyway, and maybe they will appreciate it after all?

Julie, thanks for being such a great neighbor; you are my “Just Say Hi” Hero for the month of June.


Hero of the Month

Posted May 12, 2010 by wgulley
Categories: Just Say Hi Heroes

May 2010: Colleen Smith

So I don’t even know Colleen, but I admire her chutzpah. Colleen Smith is a professional volleyball player who lives in Southern California and is 6 feet, 6 inches tall. She has a blog that is mostly devoted to raising awareness about everyday products that don’t work for very tall people, like kitchen counters and legroom in cars.

But she is also making a difference in the world by being friendly. Going beyond a simple “hi”, Colleen gives high fives to strangers and gets big smiles in return. Check out her video. As she wrote a few months ago, “Through small steps, we can begin to understand other cultures, different upbringings, and the beauty of diversity that shapes the world. We can embrace other people rather than ignoring them.”

Colleen’s friend, Steve Crandall, tipped me off about Colleen’s “High Fives for Happiness” efforts. He wrote to me about how Colleen uses her height to her advantage. People stare at her because of her height, so why not turn that attention into something positive by engaging them in a high five? Colleen reports that the first time she tried it, it left her feeling fantastic for the rest of the day!

If you want to try giving high fives yourself, she recommends looking at the opposite high fiver’s elbow for best results. You also might want to check out her post about National High Five Day , which was April 15th. Kudos to Colleen Smith, my “Just Say Hi” Hero for the month of May.

Random Act of Kindness in Southport, NC

Posted April 24, 2010 by wgulley
Categories: Random Acts of Kindness

An extraordinary way to be friendly to a stranger is to perform a “random act of kindness” for him/her. And, as my sister Aimee Greer writes, these kind acts have a way of getting passed along. Here’s Aimee’s story, in her own words:

I experienced a wonderful act of kindness about eight months ago that I think about frequently.

I was with both of my girls at the library when a downpour of rain started. An afternoon thunderstorm is always lovely unless your transportation back to your house are your legs! (especially legs that can’t run) I decided to wait out the storm with a few more books. The weather seemed to be clearing so I put my three-year-old in the stroller and my six-year-old by my side and started my brisk walk back to my house. But the storm decided to start up again and my older daughter decided to take cover in the stroller with my younger one. Feeling as though I was pushing a thousand pounds and with my clothes becoming heavy with rain, I was getting quite discouraged. Then a complete stranger stopped her car beside me and had her son hand me her umbrella. I thanked her immediately and then soon realized: how am I supposed to get this umbrella back to her?!

Now let me say what this random act of kindness did for me. The following day I saw an old man having a difficult time loading his groceries. As usual I was in a hurry and had no extra time. But what did I remember? Well, we all know what I did. Do you want to know the best part? My daughter was with me. It was awesome!!

Who deserves a “hi”?

Posted April 15, 2010 by wgulley
Categories: Uncategorized

Take a moment to think about how many people serve you every day. I’m talking about the custodian who sweeps the floors at your workplace, the receptionist who checks you in at the dentist’s office, the cashier who scans your groceries, and the bagger who puts them in bags. And don’t forget the guy behind the counter at Starbucks, the bus driver, or the worker in the toll booth, who collects your money so the roads get maintained. And how about the security guard at the mall or the policeman directing traffic?

Sure, all these people get paid to serve the public, but most of them don’t get paid much. And they have to put up with all sorts of difficult, grumpy people, so why not try to balance that out with a cheerful “hi” and even some friendly chitchat? It’s all about not taking people for granted, recognizing everyone’s human dignity no matter what their job is, and appreciating what they do for you.

Go ahead. Just smile and say “hi”. They deserve it.

Hero of the Month

Posted April 4, 2010 by wgulley
Categories: Just Say Hi Heroes

April 2010: Bill P.

Bill is currently the coach of the MIT masters swim team in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I met him in the early 1990’s, at a pool in Boston where we were both swimming masters’ workouts. I was new in town, and he was immediately welcoming to me. We hadn’t known each other long when he invited me to join him on a relay for the Boston Light Swim. On that long day in the Boston Harbor, in a small boat crowded with swimmers, I learned how easygoing and friendly he was– and how he excelled as an open-water swimmer. What a beautiful long stroke!

Bill has a way of making you feel valued. He makes jokes and gives compliments easily and is genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say. He will say “hi” and strike up a conversation with anyone he comes across. Raised in Cambridge, Bill is my proof that people from the Boston area CAN be friendly. Bill P. is my first “Just Say Hi” hero of the month.

Bill has a weekly jazz radio program heard live on Mondays at 4pm on http://www.wmbr.org. You can listen and if you’re feeling it — give him a call and “Just Say Hi”.

Bill and I are putting out a challenge… can you name your “Just Say Hi” hero of the month? Maybe it’s someone at the grocery store, bus stop, on the treadmill, or at your kid’s school. Please send me your nomination and short description of why they are deserving of being a “Just Say Hi” hero.

Blog Post #1

Posted March 30, 2010 by wgulley
Categories: Uncategorized

And so starts a blog about an idea that is quite simple: greeting people (including strangers) with a simple “hi”, a smile, and eye contact. That’s it.

Piece of cake, right? Well, that depends where you live. I’ve been a runner for the past 30 years and have jogged in many different places where I’ve lived and traveled. As you might guess, I’ve found that people down south and in more rural areas say “hi” to their fellow walkers and joggers much more often. Running on roads and trails in the Carolinas as a teenager, I grew accustomed to the friendly greetings runners gave to each other. Saying “hi” was just what you did when someone passed by on your run. But then I started visiting my future husband at a college way up north in New Jersey. I remember well how jarring it was when no one said “hi” to me (or even looked at me!) on runs there, even on quiet woodsy trails.

Is it just the weather that causes us to be less likely to greet people? There does seem to be a correlation with weather, but I’d love to hear some readers’ comments with counter-examples, i.e., cold places where people are still friendly to strangers. And if the weather is a major factor, do we want Mother Nature to be pushing us around like that? When it’s 20 degrees and windy, isn’t that when we need the warmth of community the most?

Population density is another factor often thought to be correlated with friendliness. It’s generally accepted that big cities are unfriendly places, and Boston is no exception, unfortunately. On the other hand, I was quite struck by how friendly people were when I traveled to Mexico City (pop. 18 million), Bogota (7 million), and Sydney (4 million). Some cultures clearly seem to value being friendly more than others, and can pull it off even in urban environments.

Within our own culture, no matter where you live in America, it is clear that cars, cell phones, smart phones, and iPods have all made it easier for us to ignore strangers who pass us by each day. But we are all connected to each other and we all deserve acknowledgment as we go through the day — working, exercising, shopping, and commuting. A friendly word to the people we cross paths with can lift spirits, break down barriers, and increase community.

I myself am not a naturally friendly person. I was not born in the South, and my parents’ roots are in New York and Chicago. Being friendly to people as a way of life is something I came to slowly appreciate over the years, through the influence of various people and experiences.

On a beautiful day last September, I sat at a table for 6 hours at my town’s annual “Faire on the Square”, selling t-shirts that say “just say hi”. A poster atop the table asked “Do you wish people were friendlier?” Passers-by helped me make a list of greetings in dozens of different languages, and a list of places they wish people were friendlier. I had great conversations with many people of all ages and cultures who were like-minded about this issue. I sold shirts to several people who seemed to share my mission. Or maybe they just thought it was a cute t-shirt. My husband did a fabulous job with the design.

So give it a try. Just say hi! Buy a shirt to drive the point home. And please let me know how it goes!