I wasn’t a big fan of the custom of greeting. I didn’t see the need for it or deem it as important as the way people around me did. My mother would actually scowl me to greet her whenever I jumped straight to converse with her when I first saw her in a day. My neighbours would call me and sternly ask me why I didn’t greet them when I passed them while they were sweeping the yard on my way to school. I didn’t get what was the big deal with greeting. I found it to be time wasting and so unnecessary.

I actually didn’t mind when a person who hadn’t seen me in ages (or was seeing me for the first time) just jumped in and talked to me. But, this new girl in our neighbourhood changed my opinion lately. She always wore her widest smile whenever she greeted me. I could be passing her by with my earphones in, without seeing her, and she would tap my shoulder and wave at me with smiling eyes. To be honest, it always felt good. I realised that by greeting people, you are actually making them feel good. You are lightening up their day. You don’t only acknowledge their very own existence but you also honour them. All of this is a sign of respect. I always said that respect made other people feel great about themselves, and whenever you make people feel great about themselves, they will love you and you will become important to them.

In Zulu when you greet you say, “Sawubona, I see you.” People want and love to be seen. That’s why elders would ask you whether you are passing at the cemetery when you pass them by without greeting them. They feel disrespected because you don’t notice them when they are just right there!

We all go through the most in our personal lives, it’s stress over stress and that’s why we should be kind to one another. We should show people that they matter, and we can do this by simply greeting them. A wave with a smile on the face could ease a lot of pain. It could help take away the worry that we didn’t know existed in ourselves. That few seconds of acknowledgement can do a lot of positive change.

I know that greeting everyone you see in the township streets is almost impossible. So, just greet your neighbour when you see them early in the morning. Before asking assistance from people, greet them, this shows that you don’t only care about the assistance that they can render to you but also about them as people.

I am now the first person to say ‘sawubona’ to my mother with great enthusiasm. I greet my neighbours first when I see them and ask them if they are good. I acknowledge and respect them. I now always make sure that whenever I am talking to a person in the street, I always have my best smile on and I wish them well when we part. I am even now conscious of the words I say to them, I no longer say goodbye because the word “goodbye” sounds final. It’s like I am telling them that I don’t want to see them again or it’s my last time seeing them. So instead, I now say positive words like, “See you next time,” and “till we meet again.” All of this shows humility. And just like they say, “Kindness is like butter, it works better when it is spread around.”


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