Spreading goodwill

In the early morning hours May 19, Will Blackmon received a surprise phone call from the Town Clerk, Amy Taylor. She told him he was needed at the town’s regular meeting that day, it was very important. It turned out, Blackmon was being awarded the Goodwill Ambassador.

“I wasn’t sure what a goodwill ambassador was, I had to look it up,” Blackmon laughed. “It’s something I love doing, I don’t need an award for that.”

Islanders may recognize his smile from around town as he waters the flowers that line the street, waving at passers-by. Many follow his Facebook posts, full of daily inspiration.

“We are all ambassadors,” Blackmon said humbly. “You have all been nice to me, so it’s easy for me to spread positivity. You all are my inspiration.”

For the Town of Friday Harbor’s Mayor Ray Jackson, however, it was important to recognize employees who go above and beyond their duty while maintaining a positive attitude. Blackmon has done so effortlessly for years.

This is not the first time community members have thanked Blackmon for spreading goodwill. San Juan Island resident Kitty Sorgen for example, made him a quilt last September, to show appreciation. “Will is an inspiration and he deserves to know what he means to so many people in this community,” Sorgen told King 5 news when they aired a segment about the gift. “He’s always got a big smile on his face and spreads so much light.”

“That really blew my mind,” Blackmon said. He knew Sorgen and had heard she made quilts. One day he asked her if she really was a quilter. “Man that would be nice,” Blackmon said when she told him she did. The next thing he knew, Soren asked to meet him at church. Blackmon brought her flowers, because, he said, he brings flowers when a woman asks him to meet.

“I love my blankie. It goes off-island with me, I take it to the movies,” Blackmon laughed. “One of my adult kids was using it the other day and I said ‘hey, what are you doing? Go get your own blanket!’”

Blackmon wasn’t always so positive. Growing up in Sacramento he was surrounded by chaos. “In Sacramento, you hear the guns, bums fighting, There isn’t the chaos here,” Blackmon said, adding that the island has served as his inspiration.

One of the first jobs Blackmon had when he moved to the island twenty years ago, was at Window Craft. He credits the men he worked with at Window Craft as being his mentors and helping him grow.

“Ted Dillery, Roger Paul and Jerry Mullis; are the three main people I look up to. I watched how they carried themselves, treat women and each other. They are genuinely nice guys and talked to me with respect,” Blackmon said. Until meeting them, Blackmon said, he was mostly in survival mode. He knew right from wrong, Blackmon said, but he had also picked up a lot of street life throughout his childhood. “They taught about what it means to be a man.”

As he creates his social media content, he doesn’t plan ahead of time but writes what hits him in that moment.

“I try to practice what I preach, lead by example, and spread positivity to myself too,” Blackmon said.

With the crazy times, the world is living in right now, Blackmon does have a couple of wishes. One is that people communicate more, on a personal level.

“I want us to communicate, that’s the only way we can find our way out of all this,” he said, adding that while people talk about teaching children how to be adults, over social media, adults have been behaving worse than children. “We all talk about how we are teaching our kids, but what are we teaching ourselves?”

Blackmon is concerned about the communities youth, which goes toward his second wish; to make the island fun and safe for children.

“The kids could really use a rec center type of place, like a YMCA,” Blackmon said. He gave kudos for all the programs Island Rec puts together, but he would like to see an actual center where kids could go. “We ave a six million dollar oasis for your pets but nothing for the kids,” Blackmon said, adding that the island has more young people than adults. “The kids are like, I’m lost over here. They are bored and learning some crazy stuff on social media.”

While the world is topsy turvy, Blackmon said he advises the community not to take things so seriously and focus on taking care of home instead. “If we take care of our own, if we take care of this place, we will be great. That’s what I love about this place, I see its potential.”

Contributed photo by Will Blackmon