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How many people will you say ‘Hello’ to today? For some people the answer to that question might be ‘too many to count’, but for others it might be none at all.

Today is the 45th annual “World Hello Day” – an event held each year on November 21st and observed by people in more than 180 countries worldwide.

People taking part set out to say ‘Hello’ (or whatever the equivalent is in their language) to at least 10 people on World Hello Day. Saying ‘Hello’ is the important first step in beginning a conversation, perhaps with someone you already know well or maybe with someone new. It can be the first word in a lifelong friendship.

World Hello Day began in 1973 to promote verbal communication as an alternative to war and a means to preserve peace. It was specifically a response to the Yom Kippur War, a 20-day conflict between Egypt and Israel in October 1973, which many people believed could have been avoided by the two sides talking to each other.

Among them were American brothers Brian and Michael McCormack, who came up with the idea of World Hello Day as an expression of their belief that conflicts should be resolved through talking rather than the use of force. Together they wrote 1,360 letters, in seven languages, and sent them to government leaders worldwide, encouraging them to participate in the first World Hello Day.

When the media caught wind of what the young McCormack brothers were doing, their idea was publicised and quickly caught the public imagination. The idea that simply saying ‘Hello’ could be a first step to resolving or avoiding conflict began to resonate around the world. Right from the start the brothers stressed that anyone can participate in World Hello Day, from national governments to individuals.

In the years since it began, millions of people in more than 180 countries have participated in World Hello Day. According to the movement’s official website (www.worldhelloday.org): “People around the world use the occasion of World Hello Day as an opportunity to express their concern for world peace.  Beginning with a simple greeting on World Hello Day, their activities send a message to leaders, encouraging them to use communication rather than force to settle conflicts.”

More than 100 leading writers, entertainers, politicians and other famous people have also expressed their support for World Hello Day. Thirty-one winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have publicly noted the annual event’s value, both in encouraging world leaders to pursue peace and as a way for anyone to actively join in the process of creating it.

Over recent years, some participants have also begun using World Hello Day as a means to combat social isolation. Some people, especially elderly people who live alone or those in more remote rural areas, can go for days on end without saying hello to another human being. Instead of simply saying ‘Hello’ to 10 people they might ordinarily meet throughout the day, some World Hello Day participants now make a point of seeking out people who might otherwise not say ‘Hello’ to anyone at all, either on that day or others.

Another campaign which more recently demonstrated the power and importance of just saying ‘Hello’ was the “Hello, my name is…” campaign, started in the UK in 2013. It came about after a doctor who was being treated for terminal cancer noticed how few of the people looking after her introduced themselves with a simple “Hello, my name is…”. While it might seem a small thing, it can make a tremendous difference to a patient’s perception of their treatment and it has now been widely adopted throughout the NHS and other healthcare sectors. For more about that campaign, click here.

Whatever way you choose to use your ‘Hello’, why not make a point of using it more often today, and every day?

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