As my kids get older and inch closer to middle school, I’ve become acutely aware of their growing independence. They’re beginning to branch off from me in small, but noticeable ways, as they experience the world with less and less of my supervision. Like any parent, I worry that the world may not always be a nice to my kids. But that’s why I’ve been so touched by the sweet story of an elderly man in El Dorado Hills, California, who’s been showing local middle schoolers a daily dose of kindness — in the form of morning fist bumps.
The story was first shared on August 21, when a local mom named Gina Arnold took to Facebook to recount what happened at school drop-off that morning. In her post, Arnold shared that she usually drops off her 10-year-old daughter Audrey on the side of Marina Village Middle School in El Dorado Hills, but on this particular morning, with a little extra time on their hands, Arnold decided to drop her daughter off closer to the school.
“When we pulled in to the school [Audrey] said, ‘Oh no!'” Arnold wrote. “‘I forgot I like you dropping me off at the corner so I can talk to the cute, little old man and today I would have had more time!'”
Arnold was confused — “What cute little old man?” she asked.
That’s when Audrey told her mother about the elderly man that stands at the steps of the school and encourages all the students as they enter the building.
“He talks about kindness and gives us advice and fist bumps!” Audrey shared. “It’s the best part of the day!'”
(OMG — if that doesn’t make your heart swell, I don’t know what will.)
When Arnold drove by to get a closer look, she saw the scene firsthand and could see instantly why her daughter was so touched by the morning routine.
“My daughter had only seen him for a few days since it is the beginning of the school year,” Arnold tells Babble. “His manner is so very gentle and you can tell the kids hang on his words. He is kind in his delivery and ends most of his greetings with God loves you and so do I!”
It wasn’t long after Arnold posted the story that details began to emerge about who exactly the morning greeter is. According to one mom at the school, his name is Wally (or Mr. Knuckles). Another added that he’s been encouraging kids at the middle school for many years. Other commenters on Facebook shared that Wally is a veteran and has also volunteered at the local elementary school.
Even though he’s now in his 90’s, Wally makes sure to show up each and every day and leave the kids with a great piece of life advice. According to Arnold, that day he left Audrey with this little food for thought: “If they gossip to you, then they’ll gossip about you.”
“The thing about knowing Wally is there encouraging them at the beginning of every day is reassuring, because you hope that the kids will remember his words as the day goes on and long into the future!” Arnold tells Babble.
Talk about an amazing man and a lucky group of kids. Here’s hoping that Wally’s lessons of kindness never fade.