I didn't live in a nice part of town. If anything, I lived in a complete shit hole. The apartment I lived in was old, creaking, and smelled of dust. Homeless people sort of wandered the streets. There were thieves, rapists, and murders all in the streets bellow us. But since my mom was earning minimum wage, we couldn't afford a nice house.
Being only fifteen at the time, I was a bit of a little shit, very annoying to everyone and anyone. I didn't pick on anyone, but I acted much tougher than I actually am. I was a brown haired white boy with a bit too much anger.
"Daryl, can you please go out and pick up some milk?" My mom gave me some money. I didn't know what was going to happen that day. All I know is that I walked down and opened up the creaky, rusting front door.
When I stepped out he was the first person I saw. He was an old man, gray hair covered under a beanie, a beard growing in length. He smiled bright whenever anyone walked past him.
He was the oldest homeless person here, and he'd been here the longest. He was bony. Though, he wasn't begging for anything or talking to everyone. You could see his two brown eyes light up with glee whenever anyone passed by him.
Feeling bad, I smiled and waved. He waved back. Pity washed over me. At least I had clean clothes and a roof. Yet his smile just showed so much life and happiness. He practically lived for someone to just simply walk by and wave at him.
I sat down next to him for a minute. The milk could wait. "Hello," I greeted.
"Hi." His smile shown, as always. This baffled me a bit. Why was he smiling? He lived in the bad part of town, homeless, barely anything to eat, yet he still always put on that cheery face.
"Sir, why do you always smile like that?" I asked.
"Because I'm thankful that every day, I see people doing things. Sometimes, I smile because people acknowledge I'm here and wave at me. There's no point in not looking at the bright side of things. When I die, I'll die with a smile because I can find out whether there's a heaven or not. There's always something to find pleasure in. I'm happy I made it to my old age, living in poverty my whole life. That is my reason for smiling, boy." I took his words to heart. I stood up, gave him the money I'd earned earlier that day for mowing the lawn of the house by the apartment, and walked away.
When I came back with the milk, I went up to the room and fell asleep. I wasn't hungry anyway. I could skip a meal.
The next day, when I woke up, mom told me that a very old homeless man had been beat to death by our house. She said the creepy thing was that he died with this smile on his face. It was then that I knew it was him. I didn't think it was creepy. I knew why he died like that.
I broke down in tears. My mother looked at me strange and continued cooking breakfast. I just sat on the floor and bawled like a baby. I didn't even know the old man's name. Yet, I still thought he was the best person I had ever met and will meet. I was right.
That man taught me more about being a positive, good person than my own mother did. For that, I am eternally in his debt.
I lived by the words of that old man. I changed my ways. I, Daryl Keep, became a better man. And I almost always kept a smile on my face. Because even at the worst times, you could smile at just being alive.