We’ll admit it: Reading the news each day can sometimes be depressing. So, today, a gift: Wally Richardson, 95. Each day he stands in front of a middle school in central California to share witticisms and positive sayings with the students walking in. And they love it.
Whether you are on the West Coast or the East Coast, or are a middle schooler or a nonagenarian, we can all use encouragement and a little more joy. Richardson starts his routine delivering enthusiasm at 7:15 a.m. outside Marina Village Middle School, with his dog, Dexter.
His exchanges with students go something like this, as captured by The Washington Post: “To the world, you may be one person, but to one person?” he said one day.
“You may be the world!” the students shouted back, smiling.
Then, another: “Judging others doesn’t define who they are — it defines who you are. Never look down on anyone unless?”
“You’re helping them up!” several kids responded.
How we need this reminder, this counterweight to a world that can be cruel, judgmental and unforgiving: There are people who lead in small but mighty ways that encourage others to be their best selves. Richardson has been standing on the sidewalk in front of the school, issuing his compassionate sayings, every day since 1998.
It started one day when he was walking by the school in El Dorado Hills, and some students wanted to pet his dogs. “What you do is what you are,” he found himself saying.
The students, to his surprise, seemed to listen, and he had another lesson ready: “You can’t start the next chapter in your life if you keep reading the last one.”
Followed by, “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.”
He loved the interactions, and the students did, too. He realized he was having an impact when they started memorizing his sayings and began calling them Wallyisms. His kindness has resonated with people far beyond the school and prompted a number of news stories. We all, clearly, crave a little wisdom and inspiration.
But there is more than a little to go around. Richardson has amassed more than 300 “Wallyisms,” ever since he was a sophomore in high school, daydreaming during study hall. The positivity brought him comfort, he told The Post, while he served 10 years with the Navy, including during World War II. Whether the challenge is war or middle school, he has focused on uplifting attitudes.
There is a message here for everyone. So, remember that “doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will,” and “the true measure of a person is how they treat someone who can do them absolutely no good.” Finally, if you need a little push to get out the door: “A ship in a harbor is safe. But that’s not what ships are built for.”