17 February 2014

Say Hello. Start something good.

Today it's easy to choose anonymity, to conduct our lives at one step removed, be impersonal. Book online, text don't ring, status update for all rather than conversation with one. The paradox of the rise of social networking is that in lots of ways it can lead to us to connect less with the people physically around us.

For city dwellers especially, our exchanges in the offline world have become squeezed, surrounded as we are by a daily crush of fellow urbanites racing from A to B, to work, to the supermarket, to the gym. At such volume and speed individual exchanges can blur, each one lost in the mass. Can you describe the newsagent who topped up your Oyster card this morning, or the person who stood next to you at the bus stop? Too easily the sense that 'real' interactions only happen online, in ring fenced blasts that we check at our time of choosing can take over. And when it does, we are all the poorer for it.

That's why we're calling for a very simple thing. A hello. Try it. Not to everyone you pass. Start small, try it on two or three people today. See where it leads. Maybe the person you often sit opposite on the train, or the neighbour you pass every day but have never spoken to. Think of it as your New Year drive to eat five a day, but this is a bid for social nourishment.

Once embraced, it's a habit that can lead to so much more, each exchange the possibility of a window into another person's life, the chance to glimpse a brief snap shot of the day seen from their shoes, an anchor tying you to your surroundings and an exercise for your empathy muscles. At the very least it's a shared greeting, a smile, something to take with you. After all what is "good morning" but a hope for the start of a day lived well.