The ‘Smile and Say Hello’ Campaign

Maybe I spent too many years living in a large city or perhaps I didn’t have the youthful confidence or peace.  In either case, I spent the past 10 years of my life walking around my neighborhood streets with eyes averted when I’d pass other people.

Juxtaposing this habit, I fondly remember a guy that I would see at a park in Berkeley several times per week.  Every time I passed this guy he had a big bright smile and would loudly say hello.  His greeting was so genuine that it infused my soul and put a pep in my step.  I have also witnessed my father-in-law become rich with stories of making friends out of strangers and my aunt who does the same in the establishments she frequents.  Having watched these people in every day situations, I saw how full their hearts get from even the most routine interactions throughout the day.

Several months ago, partly inspired by these people, I decided that I would open up to life on the street.  No more averted eyes!  Head up and take in the moment.  I began my little experiment by saying hello to my neighbors (strangers at the time) when I would see them outside.  I would start the conversation with a simple compliment about their house or yard, or perhaps a question about the house that had been intriguing me.  Sure enough, this simple outreach began a conversation, more exchange of laughs and smiles, and 5 minutes later I knew my neighbors a bit better and my soul was more full.  Now when I see them on the street we greet each other by first name and we both have the chance to smile.

This simple act took confidence at first.  Even now I find that I must drop all of my thoughts and get present in the moment to say hello to a stranger and mean it deeply.  The practice itself has become addictive because of how good it feels from the energy that you get back.  I smile and say hello to many others who look just like I did a few months ago- head down, eyes averted.  Sometimes it catches them off guard, but when they see your honest eyes you will get a pleased smile and genuine eye contact in return.  It always amazes me how powerful little changes can be in your life.  If for no other reason you should try this just because it just feels good to smile.

If you try starting your own campaign, please report back with your findings!  Email ben(at)

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