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I had a wonderful time laughing and, of course, eating with my loved ones last week! I pray that those of you who chose to commune with those close to you had a fantastic time. There is never a wrong time to gather together and express gratitude for each other and for all the blessings we have each been afforded.

Whenever I go home to New York and then come back to the Boston/Cambridge area, I'm struck by the difference in people's attitudes. New Yorkers have a bad reputation for being cold and unfriendly, but I tell you, I consistently get more head nods and "hellos" in New York than I do in most other places -- except down South, Southern hospitality is indeed alive and well!

As a very open, friendly person, I find it odd that when walking around my University campus -- or even my own building where I live -- many people avoid eye contact and don't speak to each other. The temptation under those circumstances is to react the same way; look down, don't speak, ignore people as I see them waking by. Why should I speak if they don't?

I'm sure many of us have experienced similar situations and been tempted to react in similar ways. But, I've realized that reacting and behaving in that way is not who I am. If I allow the actions of others to make me behave in a way that is not indicative of who I am, I'm letting someone change my character -- and not for the better. Each of us should be fully in control of our own character and our own actions, not changing them as a reaction to what someone else has done, but only consciously because we have decided that the change will benefit us.

So, I smile and say "hi" even when others don't because... that's who I am and I won't let anyone change that. And you know, others soon begin to smile and say "hi" too and in so doing, we transform ourselves from a bunch of people who just happen to be in the same place to a community.

Today and every day, let each of us take the "hi" road. Let us do what feels right in our spirit even when others don't. Let us feel the satisfaction of being who we are and not letting anyone change our character. Ase!