Sarah Stultz: Don’t underestimate power of a smile, wave 

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

This week on social media I came across a photo of a familiar man waving from the side of the road next to a fast food restaurant in my hometown. 

I remembered this man from my childhood, perched up on the side of the hill near a Hardee’s restaurant I passed often, smiling and waving at motorists as they drove by. 

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He didn’t just give a quick wave and a glance in the direction of the cars and hope that motorists saw him. Instead, he gave an all-in, two-handed wave coupled with a big smile. 

I was quite surprised to see that even after the more than 20 years that it has been since I lived there, he was still out waving on the corner, and when I saw the photo, I instantly felt a smile spread across my face. 

But who was this man?

I’ll be honest — off of the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you that much more about him other than what I witnessed firsthand day after day for years. 

I might have known his name at one point, but I could no longer remember. I also couldn’t recall if he worked for the restaurant or if he just made it his life’s purpose to bring a smile to people and picked that corner. 

I eagerly did a Google search for “waving man,” “Hardee’s” and the name of my hometown to see what I could find out, and I discovered a column in my hometown newspaper, The Roanoke Times, that shared more about him. 

Someone in the community had sent in a question asking about the man. She stated she had seen him out waving to people on her way to her son’s school each morning and that she had found herself starting to look for him. She asked who he was. 

The columnist, in his response, went on to tell about the man — whose name is William Faison — and who had been waving on the corner since 1988. 

The columnist wrote that when asked for a 1995 article in the newspaper why Faison waves to passers-by, the man responded simply, “That’s my job — I wave to people, and most of them, if they’re not too busy, wave back.” He said he also unloaded trucks two or three mornings a week at the restaurant.

When he wasn’t working, Faison often could still be found inside the restaurant, watching out for the staff, the columnist wrote. And it sounded like a few regular customers appreciated Faison as much as he appreciated them and would treat him to apple pies and cookies on a regular basis. 

The woman who made the post on Facebook on Saturday said she just wanted to give a shout-out to Willie — as she called him — who made her mornings brighter with a simple wave and a smile. 

As I write this, in the more than two days since that post was created, that original post has been shared 630 times and commented on 138 times — let alone the hundreds more times that have probably been on the other pages of people who shared it. 

People near and far to this kind soul who once had interacted with him in the community are reminiscing about his kindness and the impact he had on them. 

It reminded me of the impact that even little deeds can have on lifting others up and how even when we think what we do won’t matter, it can — and it does. 

All it takes is something as simple as a smile and a wave. 

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears weekly in the Tribune.