The power of connection – the impact of saying hello
“If you feel like nobody’s saying hi to you, everyone’s just acting like you’re not there, you start to feel like garbage.”
One particular moment sticks in Nicole’s mind.
“Everyone was just rushing past me, and morning traffic going to their morning job and I was like sobbing. Like everyone was busy having life and I was falling apart completely.”
It was one of the darkest moments of her life – drenched to the bone, at a train station, feeling completely alone and ignored. She had been living in the Downtown Eastside, struggling with substance use disorders, for five years.
“And this one lady totally stopped. And was like ‘Are you ok? You’re crying.’ Like – someone acknowledged me, you know?”
A moment of connection with a stranger made all the difference to her day; she felt seen and valued. It didn’t change her life immediately, but she believes it’s one of the moments that led her to her path to recovery.
That is the power of a simple hello.
After attending the Burnaby Rehab Centre, Nicole attended Coast Mental Health’s Recovery and Reintegration Program, before finding housing and training as a Peer Support Worker. Today, she uses her own experience to support others.
Thanks to the City of Vancouver’s ‘Better Together’ program, she and her colleagues can offer connection and support to unhoused folks in Vancouver.
“We make coffee and sandwiches, we prepare the cart and we make sure we have everything like harm reduction supplies, dog food, condoms, tampons, toothbrushes, shoes. And then we usually walk around try to talk to people.” explains one of Nicole’s colleagues.
“It is amazing to be able to give people choices and see them light up when you say you can have a shower and do your laundry for free, just things that they just didn’t know about.”
This is just one of the many programs at Coast, like Outreach, which, thanks to donor support, create connections with folks who need it.
From their experience, Coast’s Better Together team believes that even a simple hello could make a difference.
“I think if people started by saying hi to them, they would see what a positive response they’ll get back. Like those people aren’t just trying to get money out of you.
“They’re nice people. Just saying hi to them, they’re gonna say hi back.
“I think a lot of people think they’re gonna bite their head off or something.
“And people have to at least try to see that and see that they’re going to get a good response.” Nicole continues.
We are suffering an epidemic of loneliness, and no one is more affected by this than our homeless community. Stigmatized and ignored, this can play a huge part in negative mental health outcomes.
The power of human connection cannot be overestimated.
We encourage you to #JustSayHello to someone in your community today. Look them in the eyes. Your connection could make a difference.
You may not have cash to help. You do not need to offer shelter or have solutions.
But you can still #JustSayHello and show your neighbours you care.