Start with Hello (And Other Simple Ways to Live as Neighbors)

Amy Pagliarella reviews Shannan Martin's latest book.

Shannan Martin
Revell, 224 pages | October 11, 2022

Americans increasingly report feeling more isolated – and divided – than ever. In Start with Hello, Shannan Martin responds to both issues with both practical advice and deeper insights to help us create diverse communities of belonging.

Martin strikes just the right tone, sharing personal stories of unlikely connections that range from the formerly incarcerated men who visit her church, guests at a soup kitchen where she cooks and those she passes by while walking her kiddos to school. She’s not preachy; choosing to live in a diverse community makes her life richer and witnessing the experiences of her multicultural adopted children makes her wiser. She intersperses reflections with practical advice – invite someone over … make a pot of soup … ask for what you need/offer what you can – simple ideas that all open the door to connecting with a neighbor. To do so, however, we may have to slow down, stop talking and listen.

If you’re already deeply engaged in social justice work with a diverse community OR the thought of initiating a conversation with a stranger makes you psychologically anxious, this is not the book for you; it is too basic for the former case, and insufficient for the latter. But for those of who engage mostly with people “like” us yet yearn for broader circles, Martin offers the “gentle shove” we need.

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