The Encouraging Stranger

It was earlier than usual that I took our dog, Jack, out for his mid-morning walk. This was entirely due to the heat. My mother and I laugh at ourselves. We are from the deep south in America where summer temps regularly go into the 90’sF. We now reside in the UK where temps this week have reached 78F! In the days to come it may rise well into the 80’sF! We feel we are scorching; therefore, our laughter at ourselves for finding this heat rather difficult. Poor Jack finds it hard, also, panting even in the shade. The mornings and evenings are delightful with temps around 60F, so out we go to enjoy.

Although we take advantage of the early morning coolness, we must still go out in the afternoon. Several times we have met a man with his dog. He always greets us with a smile and an encouraging word, like, “We can be thankful we have trees,” or “We can be thankful we have the good health to get out,” or “We can be thankful for our pets who get us out the door,” or “We can be thankful for the views.” Yesterday, wiping his brow he said, “We can be thankful we have the strength to wipe our own brows and a home to call our own.” Whenever I see him coming along the wooded path, I start smiling in anticipation of some happy, encouraging word from him. He never fails to give it.

This week I decided to stop and chat to tell him I much I appreciated his uplifting outlook on life. He smiled and said, “I can thank my wife. You see,” he began to explain, “she has poor health and can’t get out like I can. She can’t feel the heat of the day on her face, or smell the sea air blowing across the fields, or laugh when our dog chases a squirrel he will never catch. I go back home and describe everything I see. It lifts her own spirits to then enjoy the moments with me and our dog. Seeing her smile keeps my spirit lifted, too.”

We parted ways. I could feel a lump in my throat and tears threatening to spill out onto my cheeks. I glanced back at the man and his dog and prayed blessings on him and his wife. What a beautiful way he was serving his wife, filling her own senses with his own experiences. I began to see Galatians 5:13 in a fresh way, “…use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Christ has set us free from the constraints of this world. We see the sadness, even the evil around us, but we don’t have to be encumbered with it. We can look beyond, and we can share with each other the blessings we experience in our daily lives. The most mundane is a blessing: food to cook and eat, water to take a shower, a car to drive, a phone to call someone, the ability to take a walk in the park. The list of the mundane goes on. We are so blessed compared to many around us, and we have the freedom to choose: concentrate on the burden or look beyond, finding something in which to be thankful. Today, I am thankful for this stranger in the park; a man with so many personal burdens, who chooses to focus on the good and bless others in it.

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