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Wave and smile, wave and smile, wave and smile...

Dane and Carolyn Compton of Garfield walk daily along County Road 22, waving with enthusiasm and smiling at each passing driver. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)1 / 3
Dane Werley Compton, a retired pastor, and his wife, Carolyn, call their daily walk a “walking ministry” and hope that others will be encouraged to do the same, realizing that love for God and love for neighbor is what Jesus’ abundant life is all about. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)2 / 3
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By 6:30 a.m., the sun is up and so are Dane Werley and Carolyn Compton, who are beginning their daily walk along County Road 22, just east of Garfield.

“We just thank the Lord for a wonderful day today,” Dane said as they made their way down the driveway last Wednesday, gravel crunching under their feet.

Nearly every day over the last four years, the Comptons have gone for their daily walk. Along the way they visit with each other and enjoy the landscape.

“We enjoy the birds,” Dane, 74, said.

“Sometimes there’s a rooster that crows to us in the morning,” Carolyn, 66, added.

A flock of turkeys dot a nearby hill and Carolyn said they’ve seen them there the last few mornings.

As an eastbound vehicle approaches, the bird conversation halts and Dane spins around mid-stride, puts both hands in the air and waves at the passing driver.

Carolyn gives a friendly, less acrobatic wave, but shares a warm smile with the driver, who waves back.

“That was a nice smile and wave,” Dane said.

The Comptons’ daily walks on a stretch of County Road 22 have become a pilgrimage of positivity.

They wave at each passing vehicle with such enthusiasm and joy that motorists can’t help but wave and smile right back.

Although they’re separated by 55 miles per hour and a windshield, a good morning wave from the Comptons is a split second of human connection and acknowledgement.

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A half-mile into their walk Wednesday, Dane waved to a young woman in a red car, then said, “You know, when you’re friendly to someone else, usually they respond with some friendly expression and that’s an instant thank you for their friendliness.”

“Even just a smile, they respond back to that too,” Carolyn said.

“There are so many people who are down or depressed, they don’t even want to be going to work, it’s another day or they had a rough day yesterday,” Dane said.

“We hope our wave gets them off to a good start to their day and that they know somebody cares about them. Hopefully they know that God loves them. We need human beings to acknowledge us, I think,” Carolyn said.

“Most people want to be recognized and noticed and appreciated,” Dane said.

“That’s just a human need we all have,” Carolyn added.

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The Comptons’ thousands of waves and smiles have certainly had a ripple effect. Who knew a wave and smile would stir such a response from local folks. When the Echo Press posted on Facebook asking about the happy walking couple that waves, we received dozens of responses:

Lacey Baumann wrote: “The Comptons always put a smile on your face when you drive by. He will turn around to wave at you, wave from the lawn mower or wherever he is. I think it’s because his smile is so huge that you can tell he truly enjoys life and wants to pass that on to everyone he comes in contact with!”

Katie Satterlie wrote: “He reminds me that all it takes is acknowledgement and a smile to turn someone’s day completely around. I will make it a point to smile at people as I walk past them or make eye contact and it’s amazing to see their face light up in response.”

Rebecca ‘Reuss’ Hilbrand wrote: “I love seeing them! Brightens up my day! Amazing couple!”

Monty Normand wrote: “My morning is not complete without ‘the smile.’”

Megan Burkhammer wrote: “It brightens my morning to see him on my way to work. I’ve heard that he is a retired pastor. My kids and I stopped one day and I rolled down the back-seat window so that he could greet them in their car seats. He made the sign of the cross over them and blessed them. What a gift to my neighborhood he is!”

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At the one-mile mark during the Wednesday morning walk, a big, noisy work truck approached and, of course, the Comptons waved.

“Honk! Honk!” The driver responded with a couple toots of the horn and a wave.

“Well, we’ve had a few people stop over the years or we’d see them someplace and they’d say, ‘You just made my day,’” Carolyn said.

“One woman stopped and said, ‘My son was so impressed by your sincere friendliness that it just really almost rejuvenated him,’” Dane said.

“He told his mom, ‘That guy waves like he really means it,’” Carolyn added.

The Comptons, who have been married 46 years, wear blaze orange safety vests during their walk and Dane has even been spotted twirling a baton, juggling or playing his clarinet during his daily walk.

“You’re the pied piper of Garfield,” Carolyn told him.

They laughed and waved as a pickup truck drove by. Zoom… no wave back from that driver.

“He’s probably got a lot on his mind this morning,” Carolyn said with a smile.

Another car zipped by and a young man waved back at the Comptons with a cool, two-finger-off-the-steering-wheel acknowledgement.

“Did you see that?” Dane asked putting two fingers in the air mimicking the young driver.

“It’s neat to know the different kind of waves,” he said and smiled.

Carolyn smiled, waved and said, “I don’t think any of us are aware of whose lives we’re touching and in what ways.

“Most of us never hear about it. You just do what you feel God wants you to do and leave the rest up to Him and sometimes we hear about it and sometimes we don’t.”

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As they approached the end of their two-mile walk last Wednesday, Dane, a retired pastor, said they’re thankful for God’s gift of each other and good health, and they’ll continue their special “walking ministry” with the hope that others will be encouraged to do the same, realizing that love for God and love for neighbor is what Jesus’ abundant life is all about.

A string of three more vehicles drove by – zoom, zoom, zoom.

Wave and smile, wave and smile, wave and smile.

“Most people just want to be – and need to be – recognized, noticed, respected, appreciated and loved,” Dane said.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133