| Fort Myers News-Press
Arthur Warner is all about the joy.
The 75-year-old Sanibel resident can be seen many weekdays walking a two-hour route in the vicinity of Summerlin Road waving a big red “JOY” sign.
Warner’s joyful expressions began on the island, sans sign, six years ago.
“I was working on Sanibel and exercising and the thought came to me one day to be a little friendly to some of the motorists going by here and so I started waving to them,” Warner said. “I got a lot of people waving back to me. The next message I got was, hey, how about carrying a sign, and I started carrying a sign and, sure enough, I got more and more people in a joyful mood.”
The gregarious, retired aerospace industry worker from Connecticut, who moved to Southwest Florida 18 years ago, says his joy sign means much more these days than just a way to push a smile onto the otherwise dour faces that pass by him.
“I feel that in the pandemic, really the biggest problem is called pride,” he said. “So, being humble and, you know, joyful is like (going) on offense. In a battle and in sports, offense wins the game.”
Warner said his offensive strategy against the negative feelings brought on by the pandemic is simply “joy.”
“My heart breaks with the amount of pride that’s affecting people,” he said. “And many of us don’t know it.”
Warner said he also had that prideful feeling and it wasn’t until he was around 40 before he became a Christian and changed his outlook .
“It says in the Bible that we think differently as we mature,” he said. “I don’t know how it happened, but it happened.”
His wife of five years, Robin, says what her husband does with the joy sign is “wonderful” and supports his efforts unconditionally.
“We need more joy in the world,” she said. “He was doing this even before the unrest with politics and COVID. It’s just awesome.”
She said that, at first, he was reluctant to be identified.
“He’s very, very humble. I said, ‘you know, honey, look, you could spread joy to people that you’re not reaching.”
Warner said he gets all sorts of reactions, mainly positive, as he strides along his joyful walks.
“Quite a few people stop, and want to talk,” he said. “One couple, a mom and daughter, pulled over and the mother rolled down her window and yelled over to me ‘My son committed suicide a few months ago and your joy sign has given me hope’.”
Another person sought him out later to let Warner know that his joy sign had given him the push he needed to join the ministry. “He said it was due to the sign,” Warner marveled.
Over the years he’s even been commented about on Facebook after being seen by motorists.
Robert Meinzer of Captiva posted this about Warner in 2016: “Pass this guy every day jogging with the joy sign.”
On the same post, Erin Cooper of Idaho, responded: “I saw him too, lol. He looked beyond happy!”
Warner makes his walks Monday through Friday, parking at the Sanibel Outlets off Summerlin and then taking a circuitous route that can change, sometimes McGregor, sometimes San Carlos Boulevard, maybe Harlem Heights and then back again.
“It takes me about two hours. The Holy Spirit moves me to relocate,” he said about his wanderings.
Warner is looking to take his joyful expression a step further. He has plans to meet with officials of an area church to try to form a support group.
“I want to promote joy,” he said, with the fellowship of a dozen or so people on a daily basis.
“Pursue joy and you’ll find it,” Warner said. “Live joy and you’ll have a joyful life.”
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