Pause for thought – the power of a simple hello

As heard on BBC Radio Oxford

My pause for thought stems from a simple hello. I remember as a child growing up, we lived on a cul de sac, we knew all the neighbours, parents chatted, kids roamed from garden to garden. All happily bonding as a community. You’d walk to the local shop and say hello to people simply because you both lived there, not necessarily because you knew them. Fast forward 25 years, yes, I’m giving my age away, but the world feels  really different. People busy going about their own business, no time to stop or even pause to smile. Head down, often with headphones or eyes glued to screens. An aerial video would probably look like the organised chaos of ants, all going about their own business, seamlessly passing and ignoring each other. But then something happened…

Lock-down hit and the world was turned to four walls at home. Human contact was removed from our every day lives. Yes, video calling boomed but that animal instinct need for physical interactions was not taken away. I noticed something magical though, at least in Oxfordshire, when social distancing for walks in the park and essential trips started to pick up, interactions seemed to change. A once almost awkward hello from an over friendly stranger has now become something of the norm. I go out for a walk now and everyone seems to smile, people even use their voices and say hello. Hello to total strangers. It’s almost the total opposite, before the odd person who said hi was strange, now it’s the odd person who doesn’t say hi that comes across as strange! We’re all waving, nodding, smiling and actually acknowledging each other. It’s almost like the lack of connection has awoken a whole new appreciation for human interactions, even if it is with a stranger. It is lovely.

I like to think of it as the smile ripple. Just like a drop in the pod rippling across the surface of the water, so too can our smiles spread. My mum would tell me a smile costs nothing but can bring so much joy, so much so it can totally uplift a person’s day. And, smiling at one person, will most likely lead to them feeling a little warm glow, which leads to another smile, and another. And before you know it one smile has brightened up the lives of a whole handful of people, just from a friendly hello.

As life returns to a new form of normal, I hope this new energy for politeness and positive human interaction will continue. Let us all smile at the next person we see.

Thank you for reading my pause for thought as heard on BBC Radio Oxford

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