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Just Say “Hello”

Mayor Aidsand “Ace” Wright-Riggins

I am excited about Collegeville’s new logo and slogan: “A Great Place to Come Home to.” Having lived here for thirty years now and serving as mayor for the last three of them, I believe that Collegeville Borough is one of the greatest places on earth. My family and I are proud to call this community, “home”.

Coretta Scott King, once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” I want to suggest that one of the most compassionate acts that we can demonstrate toward each other is simply the act of just saying, “Hello”. The prerequisite to bridging any perceived differences between individuals and groups is the willingness to say, “Hi!” to each other.

As an African American with strong southern roots, I was taught by my forebearers to acknowledge every person I came into contact with as I walked down a street, entered a room or came into a gathering of people. In some ways, doing so was a survival tactic for Black people, subject to the brutality of white supremacy in 1950’s America.

My grandmother would advise us by saying, “Don’t let your skin color speak before you do.” Grandma counseled this as a survival tactic. But I soon learned that saying “hello” to others was much more. Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher and theologian once said that “all real living is meeting.” I came to understand that before we can authentically meet another, we have to have the capacity to greet the other in all of his or her humanity.

Saying, “hello” breaks down barriers and builds bridges. Saying “hello” communicates to others that I see them and acknowledged their existence. More often than not, my “Hello” is met with a smile, or a nod or a return greeting because the person senses in that moment that they exist for me. I also came to learn that saying “Hello” is a profound act of self-agency. I can make the choice to act in the world and not just live in a space where I am acted upon.

In 2021, when there is so much which threatens to divide us, I want to add to my grandmother’s advice. “Don’t let your political party affiliation— Don’t let your religious persuasion — Don’t let your sexual orientation — Don’t let the mask you wear— speak before you do.

As Martin Luther King, Jr affirmed, we are indeed, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly

Just say “Hello”. Doing so helps make Collegeville a Great Place to Come Home to.

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