"Sometimes you don't really want the name 'liar' associated with your profession," he said, but that applies to more than just his job serving God.
Hairston has been a professional storyteller for about 25 years.
"That's when people started paying me to tell stories," he laughed. "But I've been a storyteller and a lover of stories all my life."
Hairston grew up on the Coal River, where storytellers surrounded him. His grandfather, he remembered, loved to tell stories, as did his uncle, a minister, who worked stories into his sermons.
"I listened and learned at their feet," he said.
Later, his family moved to Charleston's West Side.
"I remember sitting under a great big tree at the VFW and listening to them share and tell stories while they passed a bottle around." Hairston added, "Kids could listen, but they could not participate."
Becoming a storyteller felt natural, but making a living at it is tricky.
"Oh, it's part-time," he said. "I have three jobs. I'm the pastor over at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Kanawha City, and I do outreach for the Religious Coalition for Community Renewal on the West Side."
As a storyteller, he often works with children, tells his stories and teaches storytelling at libraries and schools, but storytelling can also be applied to grownups.
"I've worked with businesses," he said. "Like for a company merger, we've gone in and met with the executives. We start telling stories, and then after while, they start telling stories. It helps people to get to know each other a little."
Telling stories bring people together, Hairston said, and sometimes a piece of well-told fiction can reveal truths in a way that is sometimes more profound than simply stating it as a fact.
"I love the idea of thinking and creating a story that someone can pull something out of," he said.
That's what impresses him about storytelling, and it's a good plan if you want to compete in the Liar's Contest.
Of course, it helps to be funny, too.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.