A Blessing in Disguise

A Blessing in Disguise by David Macfie

Since my annual checkup, when my doctor told me I was far too stressed, my blood pressure was sky high and my cholesterol was above the danger level, I’ve been seriously trying to calm down. The doctor asked me a whole bunch of questions about my lifestyle and zeroed in on the stress factors. We discussed ways of managing each factor then he put me on meds for blood pressure and cholesterol. He stressed if I didn’t do all the stuff we’d talked about, I’d be attending my own funeral sooner rather than later.

He gave me quite a fright, so I’ve turned over a new leaf. I’m exercising more, eating less of everything, but particularly all the cholesterol increasing things, and I’m doing my best to stay calm.

One of my most stressful things is rush-hour traffic. I hate it with a passion and just thinking about it raises my blood pressure and makes me irritable and prone to sudden bursts of anger. I fully understand how people succumb to road-rage and have come close to loosing my cool on many occasions. Of course, now, all that must stop.

So now, before I get into my car to drive through heavy traffic, I spend ten minutes doing breathing exercises and meditation. I checked how to do them properly and, I admit they’re working for me. Now when I start to drive, I’m relaxed. But then I must stay that way. So, I continue with both during my trip and empty my mind whenever I’m stopped. That’s why, I was sitting in my car at the robot, breathing deeply, thinking of nothing, just trying to get through another wasted hour in the traffic.

When the homeless man, dressed in rags, knocked loudly on my window, I almost lost my temper. I hate people touching my car. But I breathed deeply, counted to ten then managed a smile. He grinned, showing me his gapped gums. Then he lifted his notice.

He looked so pleased with it, I had to read it. It said: “If you think you get stressed in this traffic, just try it from my side!! Give me a break and a couple of bucks and we’ll both feel better”

Despite myself, his notice amused me, and I returned his grin. I reached into a canvas bag on the floor behind me and fetched a can of corned beef, then opened my window and handed it to him. He was delighted so, I lifted ten bucks from my change container and gave him that as well. His grin widened.

“I feel much better now, don’t you?” he said. “Thank you very much. I’ll look out for you again tomorrow.”

And, as the lights changed and I pulled into the intersection, I really did feel better. I’m sure the smile stayed on my face all the way home. When I made my supper that night, I remembered the gap-toothed grin and cooked extra for the homeless man. It made me feel good to put a little hamper together, with a little plastic baggie containing ten bucks. The following day, at the same intersection, he saw me as I came to a stop. He rushed over and looked expectant. I dropped my window and handed him the hamper. He looked so happy, I had to grin.

“Have a great day,” I said. “You made mine yesterday. Thanks.”

“Thank you. See you tomorrow,” he smiled his gap-toothed smile and gave me a jaunty wave.

I got into a routine of making the hamper with the ten bucks in a little plastic baggie. And each day I looked forward to the grin and the wave. He also looked happy to see me and both of us did feel better. Weeks turned into months and come rain or come shine we carried on with our daily ritual. Then something changed. Instead of every day, the man only appeared Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I missed him on the off days and gave him Tuesday and Wednesday hampers on Wednesday, and the ones for Thursday and Friday on Friday. He still looked happy to see me. I was curious about the change but never had time to enquire. The new routine continued for several months then one Friday, when I gave him his hampers, he handed me an envelope and flashed his familiar grin, thanked me and waved the jaunty wave.

As soon as I got home, I tore open the envelope. There was a letter inside. I smoothed it out and began to read.

“Dear sir, you are my guardian angel. When you took the time to look after me the way you did, something changed for me. I felt better inside and stronger to face my troubles. I kept all the money and saved and saved. As the months went by, I began to look for work. I found a gardening job, Tuesdays and Thursdays and I got stronger inside even more. And you kept giving all the hampers. I looked for more work. The man who hired me for the gardening said I had a natural talent and green fingers and he owns a nursery and a landscaping business. He’s taken me on full time and is training me to be a horticulturist and a landscaper. With the money you gave me, I was able, this year, to pay for my son’s first year at school. Thank you, my guardian angel. For everything. You changed my life. I won’t be waiting at the intersection anymore, but I will be forever grateful, and I will never forget. Thank you. PS: my boss helped me to write this properly, but I told him what I wanted to say.”

I was so touched by this letter, that I cried. A few days later I went for my annual checkup. The doctor did all the tests then congratulated me on getting rid of all the symptoms of stress that I’d been showing. He asked me how I’d managed it and I told him my story.

“Interesting and touching,” he said. “Well, all I can say is you might have been his guardian angel, but he was your blessing in disguise. I’ve never seen such an effective cure for stress before.”

That night, I prepared another hamper. And the following day, I made contact with a second homeless man.