“Hello, TOO!” (A 90-second reading.)

February 13, 2012

Years ago, I worked for the President of the Arizona Board of Regents.  My office was in his law suite, along with his law partners and the lobbyists who worked for his firm.  I seemed to often arrive just behind one of the lobbyists, Missy, meaning I was walking several paces behind her from the parking garage into the office building.  And she almost always noticed, stopped, and turned around and walked back to where I was, so that we could enter together.

And it blessed me every time.

I can see stopping and waiting for me to catch up, but to actually backtrack said, “Hey, you’re cool.  Let’s spend an extra minute together.”

A few years later, I found myself staying deep in the Kenyan bush in a very humble home with some of the most amazing hosts I had ever known.  The latrine was a sort of outhouse, reached by crossing a bridge made of simple planks.  (“Walking the plank” took on a whole new meaning.)  Early one morning, I had walked the plank, done my business, and walked back across, rounded a corner, and nearly bumped into Daisy, the host’s 19 year-old daughter.  “Oh! Hello!” I said with a start.  I remember her hair looked about like mine must have, bedhead to be sure.  (I don’t remember there being a mirror.)  She smiled at my greeting, and said, “Hello, TOO!”  I liked that.

And early last semester, I was walking down one of the hallways in my building, and I spotted one of my students approaching.  I greeted her by name, and she stopped and said, “Wow, I’m impressed.”

“About what?” I asked.  “You know my name,” she said.  “We have only had two class meetings, and there are 25 students in that class.  I can’t believe you know my name.”

I was gobsmacked.  I couldn’t imagine that by simply adding her name to my greeting, I had added something to her day and to our exchange.

As I reflected on it, I remembered Missy’s morning greetings in Arizona, and Daisy’s bright “Hello, TOO!” and Ugandans’ careful, long, warm salutations—and vowed to become better at extending bright, attentive greetings.  I don’t always succeed, but I shall keep trying.

I now like to enter my offices, stop, assume a Namaste pose, and say, “Gracious good morning.”  (In San Diego that gets giggles.  In Uganda it gets a “Good morning, Sir.  How was the night?”)

People may think I’m silly, but perhaps in their future reflections it will bring a sense of warmth and a reminder of the pleasantries that make it oh-so nice to share this human experience with others.

4 Responses to “Hello, TOO!” (A 90-second reading.)

  1. Suzy
    February 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Yea Nathaniel—you have made my day —AGAIN! I have always been impressed with your keen ability to remember people and greet them by name…a simple act that
    produces great things. Thanks again. Suzy

  2. April 14, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I live across the street from Missy and her hello’s are still spectacular, sincere & something to look forward to. “oh-so nice to share this human experience” great to keep in mind. Thanks

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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