This article appeared in the September 02, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Lessons in joy from a North Carolina highway flagman

Mike Hensdill/Courtesy of the Gaston Gazette
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Steven Patterson could be quite grumpy. 

As a highway flagman, he stands all day in the North Carolina summer heat and shirt-soaking humidity. It’s not the most interesting job or the best paying. 

But for the past few months, as part of the rehabbing of the Dallas-Cherryville Highway, Mr. Patterson has done his job with joy. Not with a simple smile, but with genuine delight. He energetically waves, shouts, and urges drivers to toot their horns. 

“We’re all different, but we all go through the same things,” Mr. Patterson told the Gaston Gazette. “We got to be kind to each other.

Gaston County commuters have noticed. “I love waiting in that construction now because I know I will see him!” one motorist posted on Facebook.

“I too love to see this guy! He makes my day,” added another.

But some drivers aren’t happy with the delays. Some hurl racial slurs at him. His response? “That ain’t the way we’re born,” Mr. Patterson said. “You put little kids together, they’ll play together no matter their color. Racism is something you learn, it’s something you’re taught.”

The late Nelson Mandela made a similar observation in his book “Long Walk to Freedom”: “If they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Wearing a fluorescent yellow safety vest and a wide smile, Mr. Patterson teaches love.


This article appeared in the September 02, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 09/02 edition
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