November 21 was dubbed “World Hello Day” by Brian and Michael McCormack 39 years ago. It’s a little-known holiday, but it’s actually observed world-wide. The premise is easy: Say hello to 10 people that you encounter, and tell them all about your wish for world peace. It’s as simple as that.
While World Hello Day hasn’t paved the way toward world peace in the past four decades, maybe it’s made a difference. As each generation celebrates the day, they may be more likely to use communication to settle differences rather than fists or weapons. Here are some ideas on how you can observe the day with your children:
- Make a point to say hello to people who check you out at the grocery store or wait on you at a restaurant. Also encourage your kids to say hi to people. With some schools focusing on “stranger danger,” many children are afraid to talk to people who they don’t know. Assure your children that as long as you are with them, they should feel free to say hello to people; as they get older, they’ll need to begin to use their discretion. Almost all of the time, simply saying hi to someone in public is not going to put a child in a dangerous situation, and this is something that your child might need to be taught.
- Learn how to say hello in different languages! “Hello, bonjour, buenos dias, shalom, guten Tag, konnichiwa…” Those are the beginning lyrics of a song that my daughter used to listen to over and over. Indeed, there are many, many ways to say hello. Spend some time on Google Translate or Babelfish learning some of them together!
- Practice small talk etiquette with your child. This is a skill that will last her a lifetime. In the American culture, there are some phrases that we all learn to use as children. “How are you?” is one example; when you’re talking to a stranger, such as the clerk at a department store the appropriate response is “fine, thank you!” Kids should know that it’s fine to make small talk about the weather, but that health issues, politics and religion are usually no-nos when it comes to making polite chit-chat with strangers.
- Encourage your child to communicate with others, even if it’s not verbally. Have him send an email to a friend, or write a letter to faraway grandparents. He could also sign up for a penpal or email pal; a quick Google search will bring you several sites that match kids up with others their age. An international penpal or email pal can be a very positive experience for kids; they can exchange photos and learn a bit about the other’s culture. In many countries, children begin learning English as a second language in the early elementary years, so it might be possible for your child to correspond with someone from a country where English isn’t spoken as a first language.
Does your family typically observe World Hello Day? If not, will you start a new tradition of doing so today?