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United States
I’ll do it, but only if you’ll help

Pledge “HelloBoston”

"I will smile and say "hello" to strangers I pass on the streets in my neighborhood but only if 50 residents of Boston, Massachusetts, USA will do the same."

— Deborah Elizabeth Finn, Beacon Hill resident

Deadline to sign up by: 1st September 2006
91 people signed up (41 over target)

Country: United States, Massachusetts
Place: Boston, Suffolk County, MA (view map)

More details
I'm an enthusiastic participant in the Boston Foundation's "What's Next?" seminar series. This is a program that seeks to bring together leaders of all ages to exchange insights and expertise about Greater Boston's challenges and opportunities. One goal of the series is to foster a diverse, active, and intergenerational network of leaders to lay the groundwork for sustained action on shared civic goals.

(For more information about the "What's Next?" series, please see

One of the issues that comes up continually is our concern about Boston's future. Good people are moving away, or refusing to consider moving here, because they perceive Boston as a cold and unwelcoming to outsiders.

This is a complicated problem among many other problems, and there is no simple solution. However, I'm convinced that this is not a situation so dire that incremental change is impossible.

Therefore, I am making a pledge to get started by smiling and saying hello to strangers that I pass on the streets of my neighborhood.

This pledge has now closed; it was successful!

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Things to do with this pledge

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Comments on this pledge

  • Well thank heavens! All the "country bumpkin" and "rebecca of sunnybrook farms" comments since moving here five years ago have been tough to put up with. I've been smiling all the while but it is nice to know that others may be joining along.
    Liza, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Some recommended reading!

    "Social Capital in Boston"

    "The Boston Area Diary Study and the Moral Citizenship of Care"
  • While I don't give spare change, I always make a point to smile and say "hello," or "sorry, but have a good day" to homeless folks. I hear the nicest comments back like, "thanks for the smile," "what a beautiful smile," or "you have a good day, too." I don't always speak to folks who look threatening, but if a street peddler looks me in the eye, I always smile back, even if I don't speak to them. It's a small way that I feel I'm making a human connection. Maybe I'm brightening another person's day, and I love getting a smile back.
    Laura E., 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • More recommended reading!

    "Smile pledge targets city image"
  • When children give their "first smile", everyone is so excited...a SMILE is so uplifting...a real SMILE comes from deep within. I love to SMILE...
    Our 16 month old granddaughter, Emma Grace, has just learned to walk and loves to SMILE and to say HELLO. When a person approaches her in our apartment building -- she will first SMILE and WAVE and say HELLO. If they don't acknowledge her, she will say HELLO a little louder and if they keep walking, she will toddle off after them, saying HELLO louder and louder until she can't keep up with them...SAD, isn't it. It doesn't keep Emma from SMILING, WAVING, and saying HELLO to the next person. I'm sure she would give a SMILE pledge, if she was old enough. She would not only pledge, she'd win the hearts of all of you who just "LOVE TO SMILE."

    Lois (Mom - Sox)
    Lois R. Griswold, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I like to say hello and smile at people, it's a nice way to feel a part of my community. I hope this catches on, i'ts a great idea.
    Anna, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • If you have friends or colleagues who don't live in Boston but are interested in this pledge, please let them know that they can create local versions for their own neighborhoods! All they need to do is go to (

    Meanwhile, if you'd like to email *this* pledge to someone, just go to (
  • My daughter(19)has been in Bali on a 3-month internship. She just returned to the States and the biggest culture shock so far is that nobody smiles at strangers. In Bali, it is taken for granted that you smile at everyone you pass. Why not here? why not everywhere? It's good for your immune system.
    Li Stevens, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I would hope that the people of Boston would oblige this pledge and help us make Boston a friendlier city. Being a citizen of Boston I see this city not being as friendly as it should be!!
    John B. Cullen, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!

    "I will smile and say "hello" to strangers I pass on the streets in my neighborhood but only if 50 residents of Boston, Massachusetts, USA will too."

    And now for some questions and answers:

    Q. When can I start smiling and saying hello to strangers in my neighborhood?

    A. Whenever you like.

    Q. How long do I have to smile and say hello to strangers in my neighborhood?

    A. Until you *want* to.

    Q. If I don't honor my pledge, will the Charm Police come to my house to investigate?

    A. No. We're using the honor system.

    Q. Is it too late to recruit more people to take the pledge?

    A. Absolutely not! The pledge will remain open until 09/01/2006.

    Q. What else can I do to promote this idea?

    A. Whatever you like. Email the pledge announcement to friends, family, and colleagues. Create and distribute flyers, stickers, or lapel buttons. Write a letter to your neighborhood paper. Use your imagination!
  • I grew up in Boston, and finally settled in sunny and outwardly friendly California 16 years ago after living on 3 continents.

    I like your appeal's sentiment, but worry that Boston and the Commonwealth's residents (aka M*ssholes) will get overwhelmed by yet another national trend, smiling and being friendly in a shallow, small-talk way.

    For all its outward hostility, Boston is the home of my closest and most genuine friends in the world. Bostonians may be tough nuts to crack, but once you get to know them, they're the most wicked awesome people in the world.
    Ken, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I'm from TX, and I did notice on a recent visit that the people seemed more outwardly friendly. But I don't think that means Bostonians are rude. Just a different kind of openness. I've lived here 6 years and have found people to be very friendly, even if they don't smile and say hello to everyone they pass. But it never hurts to spread some smiles around and hope it catches on!
    Manda, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Do you have a story to tell or a suggestion to make about participating in this project? Please join our email distribution list:


    Please also consider putting yourself on the map of participants:


    Go, team!
  • I just read in current issue of new england sports (pg.6)about why not to smile when running, with a few exceptions. ...this surprised me..
    matt, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Our "smile and say hello to a stranger" campaign is mentioned Joe Keohane's article in the July issue of Boston Magazine:

    "I, Causticus: Now more than ever, Bostonians need to assert their inalienable right to be rude."

    I'm not sure that he actually got the point, and he certainly didn't include a link to this web site, but I'm very glad to see more reflection on our unique civic culture.
  • I think there are actually many friendly Bostonians. I know that my smile is quite often met with a smile in return, and many people are quite forthcoming with small favors when needed (holding a door, etc.). Yeah, we have a "right to be rude," but life's often a lot more pleasant otherwise, since the response to friendliness is usually friendliness.
    Erica George, 13 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I received a call from a CNN producer. They're doing some sort of program on the effect that happiness has on health, and they want to do a little segment on our "smile and say hello" pledge.

    I explained to him that my original motive had more to do with civic engagement than happiness - but he said he was interested in coming up and filming an interview with me anyway.

    Well! I'm not really a TV person (don't watch it, don't own one) so I felt pretty ambivalent about the idea of being interviewed. However, I thought it might be more interesting to film a gathering of folks who are participating in the pledge. I was thinking that we could all meet in a local cafe and chat, and that the CNN people could film that, or maybe interviews of several people. The producer was definitely interested in that.

    What do you think? Are you interested in getting together, or in being covered by CNN?

    Please post a comment here, or leave me a private message at

    Many thanks and best regards from Deborah
  • Eve Sullivan has made mention of our pledge in the column that she wrote for "The Alewife," a neighborhood newspaper in Cambridge.

    You can read it online at (

    Thanks, Eve!
  • Many thanks to everyone who has signed up for the pledge! We have 90 signatures, which means that the orginal goal has been exceeded by 40.

    Although the opportunity to pledge ends tomorrow (09/01/2006), the opportunities to smile and say hello to strangers in Boston will continue indefinitely.

    Please keep up the good work!
This pledge is closed for new comments.

Current signatories (Green text = they've done it)

Deborah Elizabeth Finn, the Pledge Creator, joined by:

  • Melissa Krodman
  • Cara Lisa Powers
  • Angela Veale
  • Marty Wrin
  • jenny
  • Sean González
  • Ralph Menapace
  • Jennifer Johnson
  • Mike Mazzaschi
  • Susan Ronstrom
  • Anne Parrish
  • Lois R. Griswold
  • Liza Young
  • Gina Aufiero
  • Sarah B
  • Karen B.
  • Rebecca Burkey
  • Laura E.
  • Tom Boyden
  • Sarah Struble
  • Melissa B.
  • Michael Wilson
  • Penny
  • Michelle
  • Paul Rice
  • Kerry Shea
  • Nicholas Carte
  • Molly Mont
  • Mary King
  • Danielle G
  • Lira
  • Lara
  • Sergio Villalobos
  • Maryann G.
  • Danielle
  • holly
  • Robyn Ochs
  • Bill Wendel
  • Anna
  • Bobby Gillon
  • Molly Rouillard
  • Rebecca H
  • Li Stevens
  • chris nesbitt sr.
  • John B. Cullen
  • Astrid Muller
  • Erica Quinn
  • John H
  • Paula McNichols
  • cynthia carr gardner
  • Lauren Frazer
  • Becky Haugh
  • Joshua Nichols
  • Lyn
  • John Hoang Sarvey
  • Penny Joy Snider-Light
  • Michelle Gorman
  • anne marie
  • Marisa
  • Dan G
  • Linda Swain
  • Phil Rinehart
  • Shannon Miller
  • Gayl Perry
  • Sarah
  • Martha Rogers
  • Yasmina Vinci
  • Lena Hankerson
  • Mori
  • John B.
  • alex Harris
  • Tom Weber
  • Kathy Ferguson
  • Anne Taylor
  • Marlene Archer=Clark
  • matt
  • Michael J. Horvath
  • Luisa
  • Drew Webster
  • Sara Becker
  • Paul Lee
  • Erica George
  • Adam Gibbons
  • Lisa Griffith
  • DaShawn
  • Donna Kiefer
  • Dale Buckman
  • Esther Vasquez
  • 2 people who did not want to give their names

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