As a sixteen year old growing up in West County I had it good. I had a car, a job, and was going to school. But I wasn't happy. I was never happy. My car wasn't nice enough, my clothes weren't cool enough, nothing was good enough for me. I had no idea how much I really had. Then I met Ronny. Ronny was a homeless man living in University City.
When I first met him he was sitting on a faded brick planter next to Fitzes', a restaurant on the Loop. His clothes were worn, and his face had a hard weathered look to it. Dusk was setting in, and I was just getting off work. I was heading towards my car, and as I passed him, he asked me for a cigarette. It normally irks me when strangers ask me for a cigarette, but there was a tone in his voice that muted my irritation. I stopped next to the planter, pulled out my pack, and handed a smoke to him.
As he took the cigarette, he thanked me and our eyes met for the first time. I had never seen that kind of warmth and energy contained in such a weathered man. His eyes were warm, and deep. I could see a level of intelligence, and experience I had seldom seen in anyone's eyes. A cold breeze pushed down the street, and he pulled his parka tighter around his skinny frame. He took a drag off his cigarette, and asked me how my day was.
No stranger had ever asked me that and it threw me off guard. I said " Ok, I guess." And looked around the street, not quite knowing what to say. "I'm sorry." He said with a slight smile as he played with the stubble under his chin.
"Sorry?" I asked, my interest starting to peak. "I'm sorry you're just Ok. You shouldn't have a reason to be upset. Look at you!……" He trailed off sensing that he might have offended me. But I didn't feel threatened by his words, just interested. "Well I guess I'm doin pretty good." I smiled and asked why he felt I should be so happy. I was captivated by this man's attitude.
"Well, when you think about it, you're really the only person you can blame when things aren't going your way. You're in charge of your own life." He paused to take a drag off his cigarette, and then continued with his point. "I don't have a home , or a car, or a job. But that doesn’t bug me one bit. I have my pride, my beliefs, and my mind. Now as long as I have those three things, there isn't a person on this earth who can beat me down. I know that I can do anything I want, and as long as I keep trying, I'm gonna get something I can live with."
This man didn't have a dollar to his name. He didn't have a house, a car, or a job, and yet he was content with his life. I didn't get it. I asked him why he didn’t change the way he was living, since he was "In charge of his own life.", and he just grinned and laughed a little to himself. "Young man, I've had houses, and cars, and wives. And of all the things that made me the happiest, I found that being at peace with myself and my surroundings did it. That's all I needed."
At that moment I understood what he was trying to show me. Then he really got to me. "Don’t worry about your car, or your girl, or you job….If you really want to be happy, concentrate on yourself. Do the things you like, and forget about everyone else. It doesn't matter in the end." I thanked Ronny for the knowledge and got up to leave.
Ronny gave me the insight to realize that it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks about you. From that day on, I stopped worrying about what everyone else though about me, and started doing the things that made me happy. As a result of meeting Ronny I believe that I have become more comfortable with myself as a person.