While school is an important, necessary part of life, it can be very difficult. Sure, there are tests, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about how kids interact with each other. We’re talking about bullying. We’re talking about the way kids feel about themselves and others.

We’ve seen several great stories about schools where kids have an extra special way of starting their day off right. For example, at one preschool, there’s a student who is assigned to be the greeter, and all of the other students get to decide how they would like to be greeted. Some choose a hug. Some choose a high-five.

The example above was set-up by a preschool teacher, but there are some wonderful citizens who have taken it upon themselves to greet children on their way to school even though they don’t have any affiliation with the school and even though they aren’t related to the students. This could sound creepy, but we promise, it’s not.

Gina Arnold was taking her daughter Audrey to school at Marina Village Middle School in El Dorado Hills, California. They arrived unusually early, and Audrey was disappointed that she’d forgotten to ask her mom to drop her off outside.

Gina was confused, and when she asked Audrey why she wanted to be dropped off outside the school, Audrey told her about a cute old man who stands outside the school every day and says motivational things to the kids on their way to school.

The man that Audrey was talking about is 94-year-old Wally Richardson. He’s a U.S. Navy veteran, and because he often gives the kids fist bumps, many of them call him “Mr. Knuckles.”

These messages would be motivational for anyone to hear, not just middle schoolers! It’s hard to imagine a better way to start your school day.

The kids certainly seem to agree. They wouldn’t have to stop and listen to Mr. Richardson, but they do. Groups of them stop, listen, and wait patiently for a fist bump from Mr. Knuckles before heading into the school building.

If you were going to share a motivational message with middle school students, what would you say?