Human Relations Commission Wants Unity In Ocean County

Reverend William Simmons, the assistant pastor at the Sixth Street Baptist Church in Lakewood, suggests we all say “Hello” to open dialogue with people different from us. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  OCEAN COUNTY – Just say “hello.” It seems simple enough. It is part of the Ocean County Human Relations Commission’s suggestion to help bring unity within a very diverse county.

  As part of their overall goal, members meet monthly either virtually or in person to discuss what positive change they can work toward.

  “What we are working towards is the elimination of violence and racism and we are working with people developing programs that break the silence people have and working towards a dialogue. This committee is through the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office,” Commission Chair Reisa Sweet said.

  “What we are focusing on is the elimination of violence because we are experiencing a time of so much division,” Sweet said noting a rise in anti-Semitism incidents in Ocean County as well as incidents of hate crimes throughout the state.

  “The Prosecutor (Bradley Billhimer) has been very supportive and it is a program where we try to get everyone to really listen to each other and to talk about issues,” she added.

  Sweet noted that the Commission has a fine example with one of its members who served as an inspiration, Reverend William Simmons, the assistant pastor at the Sixth Street Baptist Church in Lakewood.

  Simmons has his own mission which is simply to get everyone to say hello to one another. “We have to do what no one else is doing, make a difference in your community and in your state. People on this Earth are living a fast lifestyle to match our fast-paced activities in today’s world. It’s to the point where people can’t take a few seconds out of their time to acknowledge another person.”

  He added, “many people don’t understand that saying ‘hello’ can make someone’s day. A small or simple greeting. It’s a simple principle that more people need to take part in. Going out of your way and not saying something to a person should make you feel uncomfortable. Is that the lifestyle or person you want to be? I don’t think so.

  “People crave and need attention, and by offering up the simplest greeting by saying ‘hello,’ it could impact a great day for someone and you wouldn’t even know it. It feels good to make others feel like they are important,” the Reverend added.

Buttons and caps promoting the Say Hello campaign are seen at a table where the mission of the Ocean County Human Relations Commission’s mission of unity was discussed along with one of its projects, created by Reverend William Simmons, called the Say Hello campaign. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  His observation grew to a full-fledged campaign of the Commission which resulted in the Prosecutor’s Office getting 250 hats made with the directive “Say Hello” printed on their front.

  Billhimer said, “saying ‘hello’ is the jump point of this and I think it is the beauty of this program. You start off a conversation by saying ‘hello.’ So much of what we do here in this office is trying to break down stigmas. Breaking down stigmas with opioid abuse or bias crimes, I think if we can focus on what we can accomplish together and talk to someone one on one all that other stuff goes away. Just try to build relationships one on one, I try to do that every day.”

  Reverend Simmons added, “hello is a powerful word, and it is important to show others they are deserving of this very simple greeting. It has more impact when spoken than many ever realize. It will amaze you with the response you will get.”

  He gave two examples. “I was shopping in Howell and as I was reaching for something on the shelf this elderly lady was walking by and I said ‘hello.’ When I turned around she was crying and I asked ‘Are you okay?’”

  “She said ‘No one has said hello to me in a long time. I live with my son and his wife. They don’t say hello or good morning. I am still sleeping when they go to work, when they come home all they say is did you feed the dog, did you feed the cat?’” Rev. Simmons said.

  The reverend also noted meeting a man while walking and saying ‘hello.’ The man asked him if he knew him.

  “I said ‘No, but you do now,’ and we sat down and started talking. He and I started to talk about sports, work, and what was going on in the world today. After 45 minutes he said he had to go and that he wished he could sit here all day with me. Two simple words could turn this country around,” Rev. Simmons added.

  Simmons brought that message to Commission last year. He works security at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township where he meets many people during the course of a single day.

  He feels that racial, political, cultural and religious differences have made it harder for people to interface together. That plus a preoccupation with smart phones resulting in people, “not knowing their neighbors anymore.”

  To inquire about buying a hat, contact Simmons at or call the Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027.