Anne Florence Brown
On a quiet spring night, with the air blowing, and the smell of smoked burgers wafting through the air, several of the University of Mississippi’s well known faces sat in a circle with an unlikely friend – university crossing guard Stephen Wilkerson.
“I was brought up to have a mindset of kindness,” he said. “Treat others how you would like to be treated. Being a crossing guard is no small job for me. If I get the chance to brighten someone’s day, whether through a smile, a wave, or letting them be on time to class, then I consider my job completed. If the students are protected, I have been successful.”
Countless kids have encountered a smile, a wave, and a fist bump from Wilkerson on their way to class.
“I have made so many relationships with kids, and that makes it worth it to me,” said Wilkerson.
Because of much adversity in his life, Wilkerson has decided to live his life in a certain way.
“When I was 9 years old, I moved from the North to Oxford, and being a northerner in the deep South in the ’60s made me a black sheep in a herd of white. I was made fun of for my accent, and eventually when I was accepted by my peers after a few years, I decided to never make another person feel how I felt.”
Through the years, this idea of kindness has only grown within Wilkerson.
“Now, I know I can affect someone’s day,” he said. “Kids these days, they are good kids, but I hope they know how much power they have over another person’s day.”
This kind way of treating others has played a role in Wilkerson becoming a staple on the Oxford campus, as the smiling crossing guard who greets everyone on their way to class.
“Many kids have reached out to show me kindness,” he said. “Some have given me a gatorade on hot days. Others have just become my friend. Each time this job gives back through these relationships, I am honored and humbled.
“I am not here for accolades or to receive anything. I am just here to protect the kids, to keep them safe, to do my job. I am grateful to even get that opportunity. I have outlived my time here, so I am grateful for each day I have, and hope I can live up to the gift of life I have received.”