THE POWER OF HELLO
I have known Seun for five years. Actually, it’s been just a little over five months since I stretched out my hand to the lanky boy standing at the entrance to the church. But in those five months, we’ve shared five years’ worth of laughs, secrets, and memories. Many people often remark about how close we are, and when it’s just us two, we joke about how we’ve known each other for eons. He’d say, “How do you like your plantains?” and with the most dramatic eye roll I can muster, I’d go, “Five years of friendship and you still don’t know? Some friend you are.” I’ve gotten to a point where I can’t remember my life without Seun in it. And while I’d have appreciated the sentiment, our connection was not some chance Disney magic meeting. Everything started with a very intentional “hello”.
I used to be socially anxious, and making friends in any new group always proved difficult. I was the girl people whispered to their friends about. Apparently, I was a snob. I knew why they would think that. I mean, a resting mean face does not go well with the inability to speak to new people. I went through most of my social obligations as the delegated loner. I was the picture-perfect main protagonist for a coming-of-age story where the socially awkward but pretty nerd girl meets the popular prince who breaks her out of her shell and helps her win prom queen. Except I had no prince, and instead of prom, it was my life.
I wanted friends. I tried for friends, but I could never get over myself enough to put myself on the market for friendships. Then, one day during believers’ class, Ayo sat beside me and said hello. It was so simple. “Hello”. Five letters. Two syllables. One word. But it changed everything. All of a sudden, I was funny. I was interesting. I was included in the “what shows are you watching right now?” conversations. And it felt good. Hello gave me a friend.
I started practicing hellos in front of the mirror. Soon enough, I was saying it to cashiers at the bank, and somehow my transactions were always done faster. I was saying it to the security men at our estate, and my deliveries were always kept safe. I learned that you could also convey a hello without words. You could say hello with a nod or a smile, so I tried that too. I smiled at receptionists and nodded my head at strangers on the street. Sometimes I received responses, and sometimes I didn’t, but I didn’t quit.
Hello gave me a friend, and then, friends. Hello gave me speed, security, and great service. I cannot count how many times I have been saved because of a previous Hello connection. Hello gave me confidence and helped me overcome myself. I saw how Hello changed the world around me, but most of all, I saw how Hello changed me.