By RICK WATSON
If you’ve received a package via FedEx in the past eight years, you know Ronnie Davis and his upbeat personality. Davis, 40, delivers a cheerful smile along with packages as he catches up with residents on his delivery route in Mountain Brook. What many don’t know is that he is a passionate speaker and writer. He talks about the value of a strong father figure in the lives of children. In April he spoke to more than 20,000 people at StadiumFest, a daylong event held by Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association.
If you don’t have a positive role model, he says when he speaks, you learn how to live life from the streets—hence, the importance of a father figure in a young man’s life. This message also led him to write a new, self-published book, The Ingredients of A Man. He was interviewed about the book by Mike Royer on a Spirit of Alabama segment on NBC 13 News.
Davis writes of some bad decisions and failures of his youth but points to the positive influence his stepfather, James Woods, had on his life. “He taught me the value of patience, responsibility and the value of a strong work ethic,” he said. “I can never thank him enough.” It’s Davis’ intention to live up to that role with his two-year-old daughter, Ava Colleen.
“I tell Ava Colleen every day how beautiful and smart she is,” he said. He wants to be the best father he can be and to give her the love and guidance she needs to help her grow up to be happy and successful.
When she heard about Davis’ book, Lella Carl asked him to speak to the parents at Saint Luke’s Preschool Partners. Carl is the director of the non-profit outreach program for inner-city children and parents based out of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. She was so impressed with Davis’ ideas about the importance of the man’s role in families that she put a copy of his book in the school’s parent resource library. “He is very happy, friendly, and community oriented,” Carl said. “We all just love him.”
Davis grew up in rural Walker County. Although his parents did their best to point him in the right direction, none of his family had ever been to college. As a result they didn’t have the experience to help him make good decisions about education when he was younger.
Davis excelled at sports and did fairly well academically, but he didn’t realize early enough the importance of taking advanced courses in high school. He thinks counselors sometimes stereotype students, which can cause problems later when they head off to college.
No college offered Davis a scholarship, but he qualified for a Pell Grant. He enrolled at University of North Alabama.
Like many freshmen, Davis said he didn’t pay much attention to the college handbook, which did not turn out well for him. “Too many parties and not enough time in the library soon took its toll,” he said. He flunked out at University of North Alabama and found himself out of school with no money, no job and not many prospects for his future.
He headed home, but things had changed there too. His mom, Norma Jean, started talking about him finding his own place once he graduated. Davis hadn’t mentioned to his mom that he’d flunked out at North Alabama State.
He began talking to Wallace State in Hanceville, where the coaches encouraged him to try out for the track team. He made the team but didn’t receive a scholarship. The coaches at Wallace helped him with work study jobs to pay for school.
This time around, Davis paid attention, paid the dues and graduated from Wallace State. He did a lot of growing up during this phase of his life. He acknowledges in his book that he made mistakes in his relationships. A chance meeting with a roommate’s friend slowly changing the course of his life. Some time after they met, his future wife Melissa moved in with him.
Old patterns of behavior were hard to break, which caused friction with Melissa, but they remained together.
She became active in church, which Davis opposed. But he noticed that she was getting her life together and getting promotions at work, and he felt she was leaving him behind.
Davis realized he had to “get right or get left,” as the old church saying goes. He began attending church with Melissa and became a Christian. This was a turning point in Davis’ life. He soon asked Melissa to marry him, and last year Ava Colleen came into their lives.
These days Davis can’t stop smiling. Since his book came out, Davis is frequently asked to speak at churches and social organizations. His message is simple – he tells young people to focus on the grades, stay away from drugs, and choose friends wisely. He tells fathers to “be there” for their children —just as he will be there for Ava Colleen.