‘Everyone understands a smile’

By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor
Technically Peggy Meaker’s job is helping students cross FM 486 outside Thorndale Elementary School.

Peggy Meaker stops traffic on FM 486 during her ‘real job’ as a crossing guard outside Thorndale Elementary School. Reporter/Mike Brown Peggy Meaker stops traffic on FM 486 during her ‘real job’ as a crossing guard outside Thorndale Elementary School. Reporter/Mike Brown But a large percentage of the town’s residents will tell you her real job is brightening up their days, their lives and their city.

There’s nothing complicated about how she does it. Meaker is the crossing guard outside Thorndale Elementary. She waves and smiles at vehicles. Every vehicle.

Every single vehicle that drives the busy farm-market road in morning and afternoon school rush hours, a total that goes well into the hundreds each weekday.

She’s been doing it ever since Meaker got the job over two years ago. After a few months something pretty nice started happening.

People started to wave back.

Three fourths

Now, at least three-fourths of the drivers return her smile and wave. “It kind of got contagious,” she said. “Now a lot of people honk, too. I even had a man stop his car, get out, run back to me and apologize for going too fast!”

Did it surprise people when she first started smiling and waving?

“I guess so,” Meaker said. “You know, I was so green about the job when I was asked to do it. I thought everybody who was a crossing guard did that.”

“In fact,” she laughed. “I didn’t even know I was going to get paid. I was surprised to get my first paycheck. I thought it was a volunteer job.”

Right arm exercise

She was unconventional in other ways, too. “I made it a point to smile and visit with the kids, especially in the mornings. You know, I’m the first one they see at school. Maybe they missed breakfast, maybe that smile and visit will be what turns their day around before it has a chance to be a ‘bad day’.”

Lots of people in Thorndale feel that way about their daily smile and wave.

“I just can’t say enough about this town and this school system,” Meaker said. “I know people get down on small towns for being clannish and not accepting newcomers. Thorndale is just the opposite.”

Meaker and husband Robert, both retired, moved to Thorndale nine years ago and fit in immediately. Her stint as the town’s “wave and smile lady” has turned her into a local celebrity.

“People will come up to me in a store, in a restaurant, at the post office,” she said. “They may not know my name but they know my face.”

Doesn’t she ever get tired?

“I really can’t say I ever have,” Meaker said. “I did kind of joke that I was worried my right arm would get bigger than my left because it gets all the exercise.”

Pinch hitter

Meaker hasn’t missed many days on the job in two years but when she needs a “pinch hitter” she’s got one handy. Her husband has filled in for her.

The Reporter interviewed Meaker—where else?—standing on the shoulder of FM 486, helping children cross the road and visiting with parents, teachers and children, all of whom seem to adore her.

And, of course, she was smiling and waving— at cars, 18-wheelers, motorcyclists, school bus drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists.

And getting waves and smiles back from almost everyone, acknowledging honks from about one in five.

“I just believe this is one thing everybody can do,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what language you speak, everybody understands a smile and a wave.”

A nd then Pegg y Meaker smiled and waved.

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2010-01-28 digital edition

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