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One man's mission to make St. Louis smile even in a pandemic

Every morning and every evening, Lewis Claybon waves and smiles at anybody driving by the corner of Tower Grove and Vista

ST. LOUIS — If we counted waves likes we do steps, Lewis Claybon would've worn out about a dozen Fitbits by now.

Every day for the last 20 years or so, Claybon has stood on the corner of Tower Grove and Vista in St. Louis to offer his own brand of free therapy.

"He greets everybody every morning and every evening. He's kind of our morning cup of coffee," explained Brian Phillips who drives by the corner every day.

For just a moment, rush hour doesn't seem so rushed. But sometimes, a driver's reaction has to evolve.

"I would drive by this gentlemen waving and I would quickly look away," recalled Matt Ryan, a faculty member at St. Louis University.

But when you pass this corner every day, pretty soon his smile merges into yours.

"And I'd roll down the window and we'd exchange a 'Hey, what's up?'" Ryan said with a laugh. "Instead of just a perfunctory wave, it became a real exchange of goodwill, I thought."

This all began when Claybon woke up early one morning and looked out the window.

"And I saw a young girl down at the bus stop at the corner at 4:30 in the morning," Claybon said.

So he stepped outside just to make sure she was safe and noticed about 10 more kids waiting for the bus.

"So this became their bus stop so I could keep them all together," Claybon said. "And then while I was waiting on that bus, I just started waving at folks."

Known to most as "Brother Lewis", he cooks at the Lambs Bride Child Care Center across the street.  And he's also a volunteer at nearby Adams Elementary.

"His personality is so overwhelming that when you meet him you think that you've known him for years and years and years," teacher Kimberly Ann Taylor said with delight.

He admits there were tough times growing up in East St. Louis but laughter was always his great escape.  And now even in this pandemic, his grin is more contagious than coronavirus.

"I know it's rough right now but we're going to be alright. Don't get discouraged," Claybon said.

So the next time you're near Tower Grove and Vista, check out Lewis Claybon's corner office.

"I just call it his ministry," Taylor said. "His ministry of love, living and happiness."

A stop sign with its own sign language for kindness.

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