When longtime Hollister resident Jimmy Adams Jr. started his weekday morning walks in 2008, he never imagined he would become a blessing for others while receiving constant encouragement himself. The 59-year-old Adams walks five to six miles Monday through Friday from 6-8am—rain or shine. Adams starts his walk from his residence on Clearview Drive before going on two to three different routes, usually down San Benito Street and looping around San Benito High School and Cerra Vista Elementary School.
Along the way, Adams smiles and waves at literally every car or pedestrian he comes across.
Adams has built a following around town, as he is known as the Waving Man. With a simple smile and wave, Adams puts a smile on people’s faces. Every once in awhile, strangers will approach him in the grocery store and ask him if he’s the Waving Man.
On two separate occasions since September, Adams received a Kindness Award from students at Sacred Heart School—in both instances the students got out of the car to hand Adams an award. It’s moments like that when Adams reflects with a heart of gratitude.
“Walking gives me purpose,” says Adams. “When they tell me how much I encourage them, they’re encouraging me, too. It’s been very rewarding.”
Interestingly enough, when Adams first started his weekday walks, he didn’t smile and wave at oncoming cars or pedestrians. It actually took a while—Adams doesn’t remember how long—for him to get comfortable enough to wave and smile to strangers.
“Once I started doing that, it took off,” says Adams. “I had to work my way into it. Now people all around town see me, and it’s great that I can make their day and they can make my day. It’s nice because they could be having a down day, and a smile and wave can lift their spirits up and their worries away. It keeps me encouraged to keep moving forward.”
Adams usually walks on sidewalks, but when the conditions are right—say, when the sun is shining—he’ll walk on the edge of the street.
“I want to get close to people,” he says.
Adams has glaucoma, which causes double vision sometimes. However, Adams’ eye pressure is under control since he started taking prescription eye drops. Adams started walking to help alleviate serious back pain, a result of the cumulative effects from working as an electrician at NASA and the California State Rehabilitation Department.
Adams had to retire in 2008 due to an irregular heartbeat and balky back—his L4 and L5 vertebrae started rubbing—and his doctor recommended regular walks as part of a physical therapy program.
“I didn’t want to do any surgeries, and walking was a natural way to relieve the pain,” Adams says. “I still have back pain, but nothing like when I first hurt it.”
When Adams waves at passers-by, he usually gets a wave or two in response. Even if Adams doesn’t get a smile in return, he keeps on plugging away. A devout Christian, Adams has proclaimed his walks as an unofficial ministry—the Wave and Smile Ministry.
“I love people, and love goes beyond all colors,” he says. “That’s my motto.”
Even though Adams is retired, he keeps himself busy. Adams and his wife of 39 years, Dorissa, bake and sell lemon poundcakes. Adams also plays the guitar, sings, preaches and leads bible studies on occasion. Even though Adams would love nothing more than for people to join him on his walks, he hasn’t had any takers so far.
That’s fine by Adams, who will continue his Wave and Smile Ministry as long as his body holds up.
“My body still hurts from the injuries I’ve had over the years, but I’m not complaining,” says Adams. “I’m going to keep on doing this because I love the people of Hollister, and I look forward to putting a smile on people’s faces every morning.”