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©WFU/Ken Bennett

Saying “hi” can make Wake Forest more inclusive

Inclusion begins with you.

It’s not all about you, but you can start it. This is something I hadn’t considered until I wrote this article.

When I imagine the word “inclusion,” I think of acts such as sitting with the person alone at lunch, or a large group of students barefoot on the Quad holding hands and singing kumbaya.

However, when I really start to think about what would make our campus more inclusive, it comes down to two letters: hi.

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It can include a smile, it doesn’t have to include a follow up of, “how are you” (but it’s encouraged), it can be quick or drawn out.

There are plenty of variations to “hi” that could be used depending on what you’re feeling like that morning, whether it’s a “hey” or a “hello!” But in any form, it’s a greeting. It’s a simple act that should be done, but it’s not done often enough, in my opinion.

Obviously, you’ll acknowledge your friends, but what about those people that are in the awkward limbo of acquaintance and friend?

Those who would fall into this category include: the girl who sits in the row and off to the side of your class, the guy you met at a party a week ago, the random person you seem to keep crossing paths with at 12:20 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s the people you know you know, and you know they know you, but the fear of acknowledging them and them not acknowledging you back can be paralyzing for some.

So why don’t we? After talking to people, sitting on the Quad and observing people passing each other, some enthusiastically saying hello, some giving awkward smiles and some where one person seems like they know the other, but the other doesn’t want to acknowledge them.

Why is this seemingly simple interaction so difficult? My hypothesis is if we don’t feel automatically included, or we’re so afraid of being excluded by others, we’ll be exclusive ourselves and continue to perpetuate the cycle.

Other students must feel the same way I do, because  the Traditions Council sponsored “Hey Day,” last Tuesday, Oct. 20 to encourage students to say “hey” to everyone they passed on campus during the day, and even handed out nametags.

This is to encourage others to create a more inclusive environment through something so simple as a generic greeting.

I think of the times when someone saying “hi” to me made my day, or made my day a little bit better, or even just my walk to class more enjoyable, and I realize I need to do more.

I am not saying that I say hello to every person I see.

In fact, I’m not proud to admit the fact that I sometimes fall into the realm of not saying “hi” when I pass someone I know looks familiar. Whether it’s because I am hurrying by and desperately trying not to be late for class, or I don’t want to say “hi” because I’m worried it’ll be an awkward five seconds if they don’t say hi back, or because I have completely forgotten your name (usually the case), in the grand scheme it doesn’t really matter to me, but it might matter to someone else.

A “hi” isn’t always just a quick greeting. It’s acknowledging someone’s existence on campus, and their presence in your life, however small it may be.

As a senior, I’ve pondered my Wake Forest experience over the last three years, and am looking for ways to make my last year as great as it can possibly be.

I’ve realized that I want to leave it just a little bit better than I found it, and rather than doing a massive project that I hope will change the face of campus, I’m hoping to just say “hi” to more faces around campus.

Will it be awkward? It might be. Will they say “hi” back? Not always. But will I regret saying hello to someone? Probably not. In the grand scheme of things, if the worst thing someone can say about me is I smiled or said “hi” to them, and it might’ve been a little awkward, I am all right with that.

So, to the girl who sits in the row in front of me in my class, or the guy I met at a party last week, or the random person I pass by at 12:20 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, hello. Maybe I’ll even follow up with a “how are you?” but we’ll have to wait and see.

Even if you don’t respond, it may be an awkward five seconds, but at least it will be an inclusive five seconds.

I’m on a mission to make Wake Forest a more inclusive place one “hi” at a time, and I hope a few will say “hi” back.

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