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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Say Hello To 5 Strangers Today

I believe that community building is one of the most important elements of sustainable living.  There are a number of reasons for it: when we live locally and strengthen our communities, we become stronger and better able to adapt to changes in the economy, climate, and energy availability.

When we become a part of our communities, we have a better capacity for creating change within it:  making people aware of important issues and ideas, sharing resources, learning from one another, change local policies, working together to solve problems, and feeling useful, helpful, and a part of a greater good.

Each community is unique and has its own needs, whether it is public transportation, sustainable food resources, strengthening local businesses, reducing carbon emissions, increasing recycling and reducing waste, building community gardens and parks… the list is varied and lengthy.  We can only learn and become part of the solutions if we become an active member of our communities.

So this weekend, I want to challenge each and every one of us to do this:  all you have to do is say hello to five strangers.  That’s it!


Why?

Because in the last several decades we have grown cold and disparate as a culture.  We don’t say hello to strangers anymore, we don’t participate in local events as much anymore, our children don’t play out in the streets together anymore, we hesitate to help one another because we don’t have time anymore.

But have you walked down the street lately, and had a stranger say hello?  It feels good and brings you two people together for a moment.

Generally that feeling lasts a few seconds, maybe a few minutes, occasionally a few hours or if it’s really special, the whole day.  The next thing you know, you  are spreading that feeling of closeness to others – maybe you say hello to someone too!  And that person may then stop into a local store and find themselves chatting with a local shop owner.  And the shop owner, feeling close to his customers, may find a way to give back to the community in some way.  And those who are touched by the shop owner’s giving back are more likely to give time, help, or conversations to someone else.

Your simple “hello” has changed the dynamic of the neighborhood, creating a positive cycle where more and more people become closer to one another.

It takes time, but it also starts somewhere.  So let’s start somewhere simple.  This weekend, let’s each of us come out of our shells and Say Hello To Five Strangers.

Will You Do It??!

I’m going to do it too, and we’ll all check in on Monday Tuesday* and see how we’ve done.  Shall we?  Let me know in the comments!  Come on, you can do it – I know it!

(*Y’all get an extra day to say your hellos!)

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19 comments to Say Hello To 5 Strangers Today

  • Wendy House

    I take on your challenge – what an awesome idea. I am going camping on the beach over the long weekend so I might not see 5 people in a day and it is sort of cheating while away on the beach as everyone is usually so friendly. So I will challenge myself to continue this over the coming week.

    I am currently just going with the flow and trying to allow ideas to come to me on what I can share and how I can share whatever knowledge I have within my community. I wrote on my blog recently about how I want certain things out of my community and the fact that those things aren’t supplied by others gives me more reason to get of my butt and try and start those things myself.

    Anyway thanks for the great post,

    Wendy

  • Can do. Of course I’m one of those strange people who make eye contact and say hello or smile as I walk by people. :) I have to say that I always find it interesting who will respond….

  • Erin aka Conscious Shopper

    Ha, you definitely don’t live in the South. I can’t make it through the day without talking to strangers. Or being stopped for five minutes while some old lady tells me all about her grandkids. I’m not complaining – I love it! But what I really need to work on is getting to know my neighbors better.

  • I love this post! I’m always saying hi and being extra nice to people who I interact with (the folks at the post office, grocery store, etc.). But then again, I’m not shy. I wonder if shy people have a harder time with this?

  • ALM

    I’m in. All five will be done by 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, because it will be easy to do at the new little farmers market being held in our town square.

  • Rob

    To answer Tiffany- yes it is harder for shy people to do. I much prefer taking a long time before I speak to strangers. Strangers scare me!!!

  • Great post, and it’s so important. “Real” community doesn’t happen over Facebook, or even these blogs (as much as we hate to admit it). It’s about developing tangible relationships with one another. Even if it hurts to take the first step!

  • This is a very regional thing. When we lived outside of Seattle for 10 years there were people on our street who never left the house, and when we would walk in the evenings wouldn’t say more than hi. When we moved back to the south we moved to a similar suburban neighborhood, and had people knocking within hours of the moving truck showing up, and kids running through our house “helping” to unpack. When our daughter was ill and in the hospital we had neighbors we only knew in passing mowing our yard, and bringing us meals. Sadly it took 9/11 in Seattle for people at my work to realize they didn’t know the people on the street they lived on for years. I always thought it sad, as a southerner, that it took such a tragedy to bring folks together, and it was eye-opening to see the difference when we moved back to the south 9 months later. I’ll take on your challenge, we need community.

  • Jana

    Today I said hello to hundreds of stangers. I had no choice, I was working in a fundraising booth for our local Girl Scouts.

  • I often pass a 100 year senior uptown who makes a point to catch my eye also, and exchange smiles. I imagine many years of the good life with lots of smiles along the way.
    And often I’ll get a pleasant greeting or a polite gesture from a teenager. Even a rough looking kid usually will return a smile if you just give one first, as with most people. He only looked a bit unfriendly because he had a lot on his mind. I remember . . .

  • Whoops – we’ll check in tomorrow (Tuesday) everyone – I forgot today!! You get one more day to say hello to your 5 strangers!

    And I’m excited to chat more about the differences between north and south… have y’all in the south seen any changes in friendliness over your lifetimes? Is it remaining just as friendly and open as always?

  • In the South it has always been this way. If you’ve ever heard about southern hospitality it is an actual “thing.” My neighbors across the street are from Michigan, and were totally dumbfounded when we brought them meals for a week when the husband had heart surgery. I don’t know why it is a cultural thing, or why it differs, but as an Army kid I noticed really early in life.

  • Love it! This is such a great idea!

  • dancingfatcat

    oh boy!!! do we get extra points for talking to too many strangers :)? I, as you can tell, have NO problem talking to people. My kids are always asking, “who was that?”……..”I don’t know, I just met them!” is usually my reply :)
    I’m soooo bad, I’ve even struck up conversations on the freeway, in dead stop traffic :D

  • sue

    Hi,
    I have often thought what if we are ‘prescribed’ to
    “help 5 strangers today” or
    “say hello to 5 strangers today”

    for depression, the blues, fear of the future or plain exhaustion.

    Imagine the effects…

    what a prescription!..?

    Anyway, back to the thread, I just want to add imagine the effects for our children watching, growing with this example. The consequences is boundless and full-filling beyond belief, as a parent and has a caring human being.

  • [...] from “One Green Generation” about community building that offers a specific suggestion: Say Hello To 5 Strangers Today. I’ve pasted part of the post and a few of the comments here. The consistent point, as [...]

  • [...] from “One Green Generation” about community building that offers a specific suggestion: Say Hello To 5 Strangers Today. I’ve pasted part of the post and a few of the comments here. The consistent point, as [...]

  • [...] Say Hello To 5 Strangers Today | One Green Generation This entry was posted in Community and tagged New York on 9 June, 2011 by Karen Christensen. [...]

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