Hello from the other side: what happened when I greeted everyone for an entire day

September 14, 2016 — by Neil Rao

“Hello.” I never knew such a common phrase could affect me so much.

Because of my undying love for the Falcon, I accepted the challenge from my Lifestyles editors to greet everyone — and I mean EVERYONE  — with “hello” for a day. And boy, was that awkward — though “awkward” is an immense understatement.

Imagine, for instance, peering over the urinals to a little kid and having to say “hello” with a strange look on my face. Moments like this constituted my interactions for a whole day.

On Sept. 1, I set out to do my assignment. Not sure where to start, I began with greeting close friends with a simple “what’s up.” Of course, they just looked at me with dismay, thinking that I was dumb.

While walking to my first-period class, out of nowhere those same friends yelled at me to continue the task. In the middle of APUSH, I would have to stand up, peer across the room and wave to anyone who noticed me. Most replied with a puzzled look, while the occasional few waved back with a forced smile that reminded me of visiting distant relatives at uncomfortable family reunions.

After practicing my hellos during first period, I gained confidence. I began talking to seniors, sophomores and even freshmen, although I think it creeped them out. While most seniors and sophomores knew who I was and responded with a sarcastic wave back or a questioning head tilt, many freshmen were reluctant to respond; one even briskly walked away from me with fear.

What I learned was that most people preferred to be left alone. They would huddle back into their friend groups like wildebeests lost from their herd, stare at me as though I didn’t belong and even tell me to leave them alone. However, the few who responded with smiles and waves made up for all these rejections.

There was one smaller guy I met who actually took the time to ask me how my day was. I assumed he was a freshman, for his backpack was larger than his own body, but I chatted back and we started walking together. I learned that he was a new student on campus, and so I showed him around for the entirety of tutorial.

I talked to him about his struggles dealing with the transition from middle school. We shared connections about how friend groups slowly separated away from each other and how at one point in life, we all feel lonely. I realized that I had actually made another friend.

Despite all the previous trouble, getting to know this new friend truly made my day. And although the task seemed daunting at first, having even one person value your presence makes up for all the previous rejections and puzzled looks. I strongly recommend anyone to try this challenge one day. After all, you never know who you might meet along the way.