“Making a Difference” is so simple, and it happens in so many ways.
Up on this utility pole in Botkins, this banner shows a 19-year-old from 1969. That was the year Bill Miller got drafted and joined the U.S. Army. Later that year he wound serving his country in Vietnam. The banner is a way for this small, Shelby County town to show Miller how much it appreciates his service.
Miller said he is grateful and honored how this small town has treated him all these years.
Bill said the military taught him the importance of service to his community and his country. So, In 2016, he decided to serve his community in a way no one else really had any interest in doing — he volunteered to become “Crosswalk Bill” every weekday morning and afternoon at the entrance to Botkins’ only school building.
The building sits along what can be a very busy East State Street just a few hundred yards from I-75.
When WHIO’s 7′s James Brown visited Miller on the job, he asked Miller why he does this?
“Why not do it? I protect the children because I have a lot of love for children. I want to see them live a long time,” Miller said.
As Miller stopped traffic a couple dozen times so kids could cross, Miller said something to each student
“Miss B, watch where you are walking.”
“Everybody have a good evening.”
“Come on through, Kristin.”
A different student told Miller, “You always tell me good evening first, I never get a chance to say it first.”
Miller laughed as she hopped the curb and headed for home.
Botkins High school Senior, Adam Hall, walks to and from school most days, and said he has never seen Miller without a smile on his face.
“I’ve never been happy every morning of my life, but Bill’s always in a great mood. He really does make my morning when he asks me how I’m doing.”
And sometimes after school ends for the day, “when I’m on my way home from school, we’ll talk for 10 to 15 minutes.”
Rita Monnin lives right across the street from the school, and for years she has watched Miller “Making a Difference” in kids’ lives. “He makes sure all the kids get across the street, and they do. He’s a Godsend, put it that way.”
During WHIO’s visit with Miller, he talked about what he called a very scary moment in early January.
“The semi was going east, I was out there in plenty of time, and I took for granted he was going to stop. But he kept right on coming. So, the kids started coming across, and I had to grab his arm and stop him. I yelled at the semi driver you’re supposed to stop.”
Miller said the driver acted like he had not done anything wrong.
Along with keeping kids safe, Miller is big believer in respect.
“If I can show kids respect is a big thing in life, it just might grow inside them,” he said.
At one point Miller got a bit teary-eyed when Brown asked him what the Botkins and its residents meant him.
“I feel like, I didn’t grow up in the community, but I feel like I’m a big part of the community mainly because of the kids. I want to give kids as much as I can … if I can help them see life a little bit different or even enjoy that day, that makes my day,” Miller said.
As Adam Hall gets ready to graduate, he said he will miss his daily run-ins with Miller, but knows he is richer having met him.
“For me, I feel like if Bill can do it, anybody can do it. The smallest things matter the most,” Hall said.
There are not very many places someone is so willing to stop traffic just so they can say, “goodbye, have a good evening ... Behave yourself, ok?”
We could all use more “Crosswalk Bill’s” in our lives “Making a Difference.”
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