When you live in a country with almost a dozen official languages, it becomes challenging to say ‘hello’ to someone, as it’s impossible to predict their mother tongue…

See, that’s horse shit. Everyone knows ‘hello’. You may not understand one damned thing that follows the ‘hello!’, but you sure know a good ‘hello!’ when you hear one.

Going to local malls and shopping centers with my late dad used to frustrate the wax out of me. He had this habit of saying ‘hello’ to everyone. It might take the ordinary shopper 20 seconds to move from the leather bag store to the stationary store, but with dad in tow it would take me 3 days by horse. The security guard at the door would get a ‘hello!’. The store manager. The person waiting by the elevator. The person on the escalator. The woman trying to calm her child. Everyone.

It became worse when he was offered the wonder of a name.

‘Hello Tabiso!’ my dad would say triumphantly as the waiter greeted us.

‘I’ll have the bacon and cheese omelette, thanks Tabiso!’

‘Tabiso, can I bother you for some tomato sauce please?’

I’d roll my eyes and wonder why my dad always felt the obsessive need to find favor with every stranger he met. But on he would go. His habit propelling him to greet everyone he met.

‘Hello’ wasn’t only important to my dad…

After his passing I missed his constant hello-ing. I miss the ease with which he interacted with people. Because I’m the introvert and my brother the extrovert, I always thought my brother would inherit this trait.

But then – to my surprise – I discovered that I’ve very successfully and very unintentionally picked up this of all dad-ly habits. A friend and I visited an island last year to celebrate a birthday. After two days of eating in the hotel restaurant, some of the waiters greeted me by name and the maître d’ received us like queens. I thought it very strange. But then my friend commented: ‘You know it’s because you greet everyone by name, right? You always do it. They feel they know you.’

That got me thinking about the power of ‘hello’. If connecting to someone is the open door, then saying ‘hello’ is putting the key in the hole. It’s a simple, dead-easy thing. And it holds worlds of magical possibility.

About four young people work in my faculty as student assistants every year. Some of them avoid greeting me like I was the cop and they were the serial killers. Some would look me in the eye, smile (a total bonus!) and say: ‘morning ma’am!’ That ‘morning ma’am’ leads to ‘how are you’s’. ‘How are you’s’ lead to getting to know you. And getting to know you leads to shining reference letters and assistance in job hunting.

It can literally help build a career.

Of course, not everyone will say ‘hello’ back when you throw one out at them. Some will stare ahead and pretend that they have not heard you. It’s not pleasant but then you remember two things: 1) being ignored does not kill, and 2) who cares about sour grapes when you have bottles of wine?

Most people will return your ‘hello’. Some people will see your ‘hello’ and raise you something in addition. And as easy as that…human connection! Sometimes that human connection leads to Great Love…

You’ll never know where ‘hello!’ will take you.

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