Lessons for kids at Marina Village Middle School in Florida don’t begin when they walk into their classrooms every morning. They begin as they’re walking to school. Their teacher? A 94-year-old World War II veteran.

Wally Richardson first began imparting daily wisdom to kids 15 years ago when he was on his daily walk. And he’s making a difference. When parents say things like “Judging others does not define who they are. It defines who you are,” kids may roll their eyes. But when Wally says it, kids complete the sentence for him.

Wally begins with greeting the parents with a wave, then he turns to the kids.

He calls his lessons “Wally-isms,” and they include advice like:

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

He will begin a sentence with:

“Never look down on anyone….”

And the kids finish the sentence:

“…unless you’re helping them back up.”

After he imparts his wisdom, he enjoys giving the kids a fist bump. He calls them “ka-nuckles.”

What prompted Wally to start doing this every day?

“I want them to retain something that they can take on in life later on,” Richardson said.

Wally believes simple kindness can change a child’s life.

“If they can be kind and loving to people in life, they won’t have any trouble getting by,” Richardson said.

The kids love him.

“He’s like…one of the nicest adults I’ve ever known,” said one young lady.

As pointed out by Cheryl Olson, the school superintendent, it only takes one adult to make a difference in a child’s life and for many kids at Marina Village Middle School, Wally is that person.

“It takes one significant adult in a kid’s life and you can impact them forever, and Wally is that person with kids,” Olson said.

Wally Richardson joined the Navy in World War II and flew as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. Then he had a career as a pilot for United Airlines. It’s safe to say that Wally has some mileage on him, and he took away from his life experiences some wisdom he can now impart to a younger generation.

Let’s take away this lesson from Wally’s example. Anytime we can give back to a child in an upbeat loving way, we should do it. Wally learned to speak to and interact with these kids at their level. It will change their lives. And his.

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