The power of 'hello' - Joel Hall

I say "hello" to a lot of people everyday, who never say "hello" back to me. It's something about my personality that is not going to change, so I have learned to live with it.

My parents have told me that, when I was a toddler, I would run up to random people in malls and shopping markets and accost them with hugs. Since then, I have toned things down a bit, but I still try to acknowledge, or say "hello" to, everyone I see.

Occasionally, I'll say "hello" to the same person several times in the same day, sometimes within minutes of the first "hello." In my line of work, not everybody is always happy to see me, but I give them a nod of acknowledgment whenever I can.

I'm sure this is strange to some people. It's not something I do intentionally, but just something that is ingrained in my personality.

Perhaps, one of the deeper reasons I make an effort to greet the people I see everyday is that you never really know how much time people have.

Earlier this week, my mother was in a car accident. I first became concerned when my mother, who is an expert communicator, didn't respond to a prayer request text message I had sent her on the phone.

Little did I know that she had been in the hospital for several hours, suffering from bruised innards and whiplash.

In Virginia Beach, Va., my parents live near a busy street, in which several high-profile accidents have happened. One horrible accident near our home sparked a national debate about immigration laws, when a drunken, illegal immigrant rear-ended and killed two teenage girls as they waited for a green light at an intersection.

My mother, who was with my aunt, was rear-ended as well. Fortunately, they did not suffer the same fate as the two teenage girls. While they were both banged up pretty badly, they'll live and the car will drive again.

As I have gotten older and started to feel more mortal, I have come to appreciate the preciousness of life, and how quickly it can be taken away.

At Thanksgiving, I saw my parents for the first time in almost a year, and less than a week later, I almost lost one of them. That is one of the reasons I am a strong believer in "hello."

Saying it lets people know that you acknowledge their presence and that, despite the fact that we are all but specs in the grand scheme of the universe, we appreciate the spark one person can bring to it.

Whether it is "Ni How," "Konnichiwa," "Anyohaseyo," "Guten Tag," "Gruß Gott," "Bonjour," "Goede Dag," or "Molo," I have tried to learn the word for "hello" wherever my life has taken me.

It's often the only word you need to know, and harbors much more goodwill than any other words you can learn. Most people don't take the time to say "hello" anymore. With all of life's distractions, it's easy to become absorbed in our own little worlds. However, our world can quickly change when we don't pay attention.

Saying "hello" is just another way to be more aware of the world around us and the people in it. I am certain the simple word "hello" has saved my life, and the lives of others plenty of times.

Perhaps, I'll always be ahead on the "hello-to, hello-back" scoreboard. Hopefully, someday, all those "hellos" will come back to me.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.