I met Ronnie in Tompkins Square Park. I awkwardly asked him to take a picture of me meditating. He was a friendly and patient guy.
We started small talking. Usain Bolt. NFL. Giants won. Jets lost. The highs and lows of sports.
Then we talked about meditation. He said he should start doing that meditation. Life is good, but at times it can get stressful. I stress about finances. “That meditation stuff that might help me.”
He works at the VA hospital. He’s been married for 15 years, and has a 22 year old daughter. She’s a bus driver in Manhattan. He’s very proud of her.
I asked Ronnie, “What does success mean to you?”
He said, “Success is paying my bills, and taking care of my family.”
Working at the VA hosptital, Ronnie has seen many physically and mentally disabled veterans over the years. He has talked with them and heard their stories. I told him he’s giving them a gift by listening and talking with them.
He told me a story about a World War I vet who was 104 years. He was in Europe. He was cold. He wanted to find some kind of shelter to sleep. He found a barn. He’s walking towards the barn. He’s a few hundred feet away. A sheep walked into the barn first.
The sheep entered, and suddenly entire barn blew up. There was a mine bomb inside the barn. That sheep had saved his life. The man lived until he was 104.
Sometimes in life we don’t have that sheep to give us a warning. Metaphorically, we walk into a barn with a bomb and we blow up. Something difficult happens in our lives. Something we weren’t expecting. We get stressed.
I’ve certainly walked on a few mine fields in my life. Things I’ve regretted. Disappointing events that I had no control over. With the little perspective I now have, I can tell you this: those mine fields and bombs in a barn can also be blessings in disguise. The best lessons in life.
Other times in life, we do have a sheep that helps us with a decision. It might be a book that inspires us, good advice from a good friend, or even a friendly stranger sharing a story at the park in New York City.
Be ready for both. The helpful sheep, and also the barn that blows up.
P.S. I took this photo of random sheep in SoHo 2 days before I met Ronnie and heard the sheep story.