Simple acts of kindness resonate

Published 1:36 pm Saturday, April 2, 2022

As publishers of a community newspaper, its website, a magazine and several special sections, we tell a lot of stories.

Some of them resonate with readers more than others. Three recent stories immediately come to mind for the readership they generated in print and online. They each elicited overwhelming response in person and through social media.

The subjects of these stories weren’t politicians, government officials or high-profile businesspersons.  They didn’t cross our radar for some single remarkable achievement. They didn’t commit any sensational crime, weren’t part of dramatic controversy.

They did each share one thing in common — simple acts of kindness.

In a time when negativity, anger and division seem to dominate the national-media and social-media landscapes, it’s reassuring to see our local community rally behind the subjects of such stories.

Mickey Burden was about to turn 71 when Steve Barnes told his story a little more than a year ago. Dubbed Washington’s “happy runner,” Burden was well-known for enthusiastically waving at drivers as they passed him on his runs along River Road.

Since that story published, he continues to brighten the days of countless motorists, many of whom return the favor with a honk and wave.

Betty Woolard was featured in last year’s Profile Magazine as the ever-smiling face behind the counter at Washington Quick Lube. Born and raised in Washington, she was the type of person known for recharging your batteries in a world full of things trying to drain them.

“To know her is to be blessed,” one reader succinctly wrote when we reported on Woolard’s passing in February.

Earlier this week, Karen Thiel reported on the man behind the inspirational highway signs along NC-92 in Bath. Billy Gurganus was initially a little reluctant to do an interview for the story, wanting instead to direct attention to his higher power. Turns out, the story likely did just that.

In a hand-written thank you note delivered to the Daily News, Gurganus graciously contemplated the support and response.

“It was like honey poured on my heart and I needed it,” Gurganus wrote.

I guess we can all use a little honey now and then.

Ashley Vansant is publisher of the Washington Daily News. He can be reached at