The Happy Life – Magic Word

I work in an office park that is primarily medical offices.  As a result, I see a lot of people who are not doing well from a health standpoint. There are a lot of pained faces, slow moving seniors, slings and bandages, folks who look pretty sad over their lot in life, unhappy about the cards they have been dealt.

I walk by these folks and, as is often the case in society today, there is a great deal of effort to avoid eye contact on both sides of the interaction.

But I have discovered an almost universal truth.

You can almost always change someone’s facial expression with one simple word as you pass by them.  The change is almost always positive!  There are exceptions but they are rare I assure you.

It’s a magical word with powers that stretch well beyond its modest size.  It’s a word that everyone knows but we are sometimes hesitant to use for fear that our intentions might be misunderstood.  It’s a word we fear may intrude on someone’s carefully guarded privacy.

It’s not a vulgar word at all…though some people might not have a positive response to it.  Perhaps an unhappy reaction to the word would say more about the disposition of the receiver than the giver of the word.

It’s such a simple word and it can mean a great deal to some folks….not as much to others.  That’s the thing about this word….it can be like a key that unlocks so many other things if spoken to the right person at just the right moment in their day or life.


That’s it.  “Hi.”  And if you’re feeling froggy you might get fancy and add a “How ya doin’?” for punctuation.

Henry David Thoreau famously wrote “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”  I’ve always been touched by that quote because it reminds me that every person I see is carrying some source of pain in their lives for which most of the people around them are unaware.

A simple gesture, two letters, one word…can make all the difference sometimes.

Take a chance today….and say “Hi” to a complete stranger that you would not usually acknowledge.  Watch their face change…..and if you feel froggy follow it up with something fancy.

You never know….YOUR face might change too.


(You can follow Ken Catmull on Facebook, Twitter @KenCatmull, or LinkedIn.  You can also SUBSCRIBE to the blog from this page if you would like to receive notifications of new posts.)

4 Replies to “The Happy Life – Magic Word”

  1. I am guilty of this passer by syndrome . But I reflect on the kind of person my Mother was always striking up a conversation while standing in line at the grocery or walking the isles of the department store never shying from a stranger . And today my 3 year old says hi to every person we pass in the store. Maybe these children are wiser then us?

  2. Love this Ken! That one little word could restore faith in humanity to some. It could put a little warmth in a heart that is broken, or to someone who just spent an hour in rush hour traffic. Reminds me of this impactful video I saw a few years ago:
    (If you are like me and hesitant to click links, then Google “Cleveland Clinic Empathy video”)

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