It’s that time of year. Bishops and leaders all over the world are convening to set goals for the New Year. We all know this work is about people. It’s about bringing them to Christ, and helping them receive Temple ordinances. It’s about seeing the joy on their faces as they repent and blossom. We want to help our Savior gather his sheep. But to do it, we have to attach numbers. So we pick a percentage of how many less- active members we’d like to start coming to Sacrament meeting. We choose how many prospective elders will receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.   We strive for that elusive 100 % Home and Visiting Teaching statistic.

And then we try to zero in on a way to make it happen. And we drum our fingers. Should we plan better ward activities? Schedule Sacrament talks about missionary work? Make charts? Send out emails? Ideas are plentiful and they are tried again and again, sometimes with good results.

But love seems to be the core that makes ideas succeed. When people feel truly cared about, and know they have a genuine friend, they open their hearts. They listen. They recommit. They make changes. Love is what Christ taught and love must be our motive for any of these efforts. And it’s essential for both young and old.

So how do we show others we truly love them, when they don’t even know us? I believe the key is to start small, with a simple, cheery greeting. Just that tiny, two-letter word, “Hi,” can be the kindest gesture a person has heard all week. When a nonmember or less-active person summons the courage to come to church, they need someone to say hello. We need to look up from our preoccupations with our kids, our upcoming lessons, whatever is demanding our attention, and find the millisecond of time it takes to say, “Hi.”

And this prescription is a one-size-fits-all. The youngest Sunbeam can be taught do it. Similarly, no matter how shy you may be as an adult, you can muster up the courage to utter one syllable. If you can smile as well, even better. And that one small effort can lead to more. It’s the hand on the doorknob, the tiniest outreach that welcomes someone and lets them know that, at the very least, they were noticed.

I’ve heard testimonies, and I’m sure you have as well, of members whose first steps back to activity included just such a turning point: Someone said, “Hi.” Someone broke the ice and made it okay to start a conversation. Common ground was found, friendships grew, and love resulted.

What a powerful little word, like the first raindrop that ends a drought. So small, so simple, yet filled with such promise. I’m determined to make “Hi” one of my missionary tools this year, something I plan to give every stranger who comes to church. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, maybe the gathering of sheep can begin with one small word.

Hilton’s LDS Nursery Rhymes is available at the BYU Store, or at Amazon.

. You can find her other books here.

She is also the “YouTube Mom” and shares short videos about easy household tips and life skills at this channel.

And be sure to read her blog.

Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.