Healthy Habits


An encounter between two strangers in a parking lot shows you that we are all blessed, whether we realize it or not. by Doug Spurling

“How are you?” I said it without really thinking. It just came out.

The monitors beeped a steady beat.

Confusion peeked through his swollen eyes.

Probably doesn’t recognize me, I thought. After all, we only met for a moment. I stepped back. “I should go.”

But then his eyes flashed. At first, they looked angry, which was understandable and what I expected. But then just as quick, the anger melted into kindness.

Those kind eyes were what caused me to follow the ambulance there. The bandage around his head leaked through, red. Before long, a nurse would change the dressing. Like clockwork they checked in every few minutes. I knew because I stood outside for over an hour and watched the door. No visitors—just nurses and doctors. I had finally got enough nerve; told the nurse I was his brother and walked in.

His eyes drifted from me to a chair next to his bed. I wiped cold sweat off my forehead and slid into the chair.

His swollen lips bent into a crooked smile. I stared at those eyes and looked for hurt, for hate, for anger. I found none—just joy.

My mind drifted back.

Two hours earlier, I had been leaning against the brick wall at The Salvation Army. My head was pounding, and I had just crushed my last cigarette when he pulled in. He didn’t lock his truck—walk in my shoes awhile, and you notice stuff like that.

The stranger got out of his truck—unlocked truck—and as he walked by, he made eye contact.

I notice stuff like that, too.

“How are you?” he asked.

I figured he was just being polite, like do-gooders do. I said, “I’m cursed.”

He never broke eye contact as he reached into his pocket. I figured he was about to give me some money, so I gave him my best, humble-God-bless you smile.

He pulled out keys, instead.

I cursed under my breath, ‘cuz I knew what he was gonna do—lock his truck and walk away—but he didn’t.

He said, “I’m blessed. You can be, too.”

“Listen mister, I’ve got a hangover. I’m outta smokes and ain’t got a dime. I’m cursed. You’d say the same thing if you were in my shoes.”

He never blinked. He just stuffed the keys into my shirt pocket. “Being blessed has nothing to do with possessions.” He pulled out a money clip and held out his hand.

“Words are cheap.” I slurred. I figured he was trying to make a point and would eventually want his truck keys back. But making his point would cost him. I grabbed the money and shoved it in my pocket.

He pointed at an old white pick-up. “I’m not rich by earthly standards. But concerning what matters most, I am blessed.”

“Yeah, that’s easy to say when everything’s going your way.” He was starting to get on my nerves.

His eyes danced as he said, “You and I could change places right now, and I’d still be blessed.”

“I’d have to see it to believe it,” I scoffed.

“Whether you see it or not—it’s still true.” He tilted his head and smiled.

About that time, trouble showed up. “Who’s your friend?” I recognized three of the four thugs but didn’t know their names.

“I don’t know, he’s cool, just a volunteer, he’s fixin’ to leave.” I shrugged.

“Well, he oughta leave us some parting gifts then.” They sauntered close.

I started to tell them I had his money, but I didn’t. I thought he would tell them—but he didn’t.

“His eyes danced as he said, ‘You and I could change places right now, and I’d still be blessed.’”

I ran.

I felt guilty as I peeled a ten out of the money clip and laid it on the bar.

Three shots of whiskey later, I heard the sirens.

…I shook my head, and the memory faded.

Those kind eyes were looking right through me. He looked happy to see me. It was weird and scary and comforting all at once.

“Figured you might want these.” I set his truck keys on the bedside table. “I found a good parking spot for your truck, real close to the door.” I hesitated. “Oh, and here’s your money—what’s left of it. I used a little…sorry.”

He shook his head just a little and made a small wave with his hand. He pushed the keys and money clip back toward me.

I sucked in a deep breath, “I should’ve stayed. I figured they’d leave once they found out you didn’t have any money. You probably hate me, think I’m a coward. I don’t blame you, especially after…”

He raised his hand.

I stopped rambling and my words, “I’ll have to see it to believe it” echoed in my mind.

His face lit up as he looked at me. “I am blessed.”

I looked at the floor and shook my head.

“Even now?”

Maybe it was the lighting, but he seemed to glow, as his lips lifted into a smile. He raised his eyes toward the ceiling, and though words were only a whisper, to me they clapped like thunder.

“Especially now.”

After that, things went wild. Buzzers started going off. Lights started flashing. Folks in white told me I had to go.

But, as I left, I took one more look and noticed the smile on his face never left, but only grew.

It had been a long time, but I bowed my head.

And now, no matter what when anyone asks how I’m doing, I smile and say…

I am blessed.

This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of The War Cry. Illustration by Tori Bolton.