A few weeks before Christmas, I spent a Sunday running errands in town.
As I was leaving one of the stores I had stopped at, carrying a heavy box, I noticed an extremely thin, young man leaning against a car that was parked almost nose to nose with mine.
He was dressed in torn, faded jeans, a baseball cap, and a dark zip-up sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his cap since it was cold outside.
He had a cigarette in one hand and some kind of iced coffee drink in the other.
When I set the box I was carrying on the hood of my car so I could reach into my coat pocket to get my keys, our eyes met.
When they did, the young man asked how I was doing.
I smiled at him and said, “Okay,” then opened the back passenger door of my car and put the box on the seat.
After I closed the car door, I asked him how he was doing.
“Stressed!” he replied.
Almost every spot in the parking lot was taken, and there were people heading in and out of the stores and restaurants that surrounded the lot. Holiday shopping was in full swing!
Assuming he was stressed over the holidays, I said, “Yeah, the holidays can be stressful.”
“No, life can be stressful,” he responded.
“Yep, life can definitely be stressful!” I said lightheartedly.
Then, to my surprise, he said, “Especially when you’re an addict trying to get clean.”
I had more stops to make so I was in a hurry to be on my way, but when the young man said this, I stopped, looked him in the eyes, and started talking to him.
To be honest, I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know anything about this person who had just confessed to me, a total stranger, that they were an addict.
But the pain this human being was feeling was real, present, and palpable.
I could see it not only in his eyes but also in his body and posture.
He was simply broken, hanging on by a very frayed thread that could completely fall apart at any moment.
The young man eagerly began talking, jumping from thought to thought, seeming happy to have someone listen to him.
He shared with me how he wanted to get clean, but was also honest in saying that he was happy “getting high.”
The internal battle he was fighting became an external one as he spoke, his words giving me a glimpse of the demons that haunted him and that he struggled with every day.
My heart felt nothing but compassion and empathy as I listened to him.
Although I’ve never struggled with any drug addictions, I’ve faced some major health and personal challenges in my life, and I know what it’s like to feel that you might not ever overcome, or even survive, them.
He told me that he knew the right thing to do was get “clean” because it would make his family happy.
I told him I believed he could get clean and stay clean if he had the right support and counseling.
He wasn’t so sure, though.
He looked down at the ground and said, “My family is really disappointed in me,” then got quiet.
After a momentary pause, he looked up, his eyes filled with tears and his voice quivering, and said, “My sister said my spirit has already died.”
Out of everything this young man said to me, I could tell that his sister’s words cut the deepest and affected him the most.
I could also tell that he believed her.
I know many people believe, without question, that everything happens for a reason, but I’m not one of them.
I believe that there is a randomness to life and the world we live in, and that there are many elements and factors at play that can lead to moments that seem divinely planned or destined to occur.
But for me, when some synchronicity happens — when I’m in the right place at the right time or cross paths with someone whom it seems I’m destined to meet — I find wonder and amazement that out of this big ol’ world with billions of people in it that these magical moments happen.
So, when this young man, who had absolutely no idea that I had spent 9 years of my life writing a book about spirit, said to me that his sister thought his “spirit had already died,” I couldn’t help but stand there in complete awe at the perfection of our meeting.
I knew that this young man’s spirit had not died, and I assured him of this.
When I did, I could see a shift in his body’s energy and something in his eyes change.
The words I spoke seemed to fan a few barely smoldering embers of spirit that were hiding in some tiny place deep inside this broken being, and that were in grave danger of dying out, possibly forever.
In that moment, I saw spirit reignite in his eyes, and knew for sure that spirit had not only NOT died in him … but also that it truly wanted to live.
I don’t know if it will or not.
But what I do know is that for a brief moment this struggling addict knew that his spirit had not died, too, and maybe this momentary “knowingness” will provide him with the inspiration, courage, and strength he needs to move in the direction of healing and live — one day, one moment, at a time.
Words are powerful. They have the ability to ignite or extinguish spirit in us and in others.
A few words spoken can inspire someone for a moment, or for a lifetime.
Even so, continued support is needed to take a moment of inspiration and create long-term, sustaining change from it.
I hope this young man gets what he needs, both from himself and others, to accomplish this.
As or conversation ended, the young man was visibly moved. He walked over to me, shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and thanked me for taking the time to talk with him.
I got a bit choked up when he did, feeling that my words were heard and that they truly mattered to him.
In THE SPIRIT FACTOR, I talk about moments like these – moments of spirit, or as I call them, SPIRIT FACTOR moments, and how they can happen anytime and anywhere, even in a parking lot with an addict on a Sunday afternoon.
The great thing is, once we understand these moments, we don’t have to wait for them to randomly occur; we can take part in creating them throughout our day by connecting on a deeper level with the people in our lives – and also with those whom we randomly meet.
Crossing paths with this struggling addict reminded me of this.
It also reminded me of something I wrote in “Being IT”, which is the final chapter of THE SPIRIT FACTOR, that is important to remember when the challenges we face seem terminal and problems seem permanent.
Here is an excerpt from that chapter:
— Through transformation within you and me and us, we can collectively create a masterpiece—a world of Unobstructed Spirit (US)—an incredibly beautiful world that we will get to live in every day. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, the odds are stacked against us. But the beauty of spirit is that, even when the odds are stacked against it, it will keep doing what it’s doing. Even when the prognosis is terminal, it will work to overcome obstructions and heal, as its nature is to live. —
But even though spirit always moves in the direction of life, it needs the right environment and support to continue to do so.
And since we are spirit, our nature is to move in the direction of life, too, but we also need the right environment and support.
This can be a challenge. Many times our environments have become toxic due to physical and emotional obstructions that hinder, harm, or completely handicap us.
Unfortunately, these obstructions can become terminal. But they seldom kill us instantly; most often we die from them in increments, experiencing “small deaths” that seem insignificant at the time they occur.
Yet these small deaths can prove to be fatal over time, each one chipping away at the core of who we are, smothering our spirits and starving them of the much-needed oxygen they need to survive.
In the parking lot on that Sunday afternoon, I could see that the young addict had suffered many “small deaths,” as so many of us have, and his spirit, while not dead, was struggling to live.
I’ve thought a lot about him since we crossed paths, and I hope with all my heart that he doesn’t give up.
I hope he finds the strength, courage, and support he needs to overcome his addictions and free himself from the demons that are holding him and his spirit hostage.
I know he has a chance to change is life, and I know that his spirit will do its part to help him.
Whatever struggles or challenges you’re facing, please remember that your nature is to move in the direction of life. If you’re not, I encourage you to look for obstructions that are preventing you from doing so.
THE SPIRIT FACTOR can help you identify, understand, and remove the eleven most-common obstructions to spirit.
THE SPIRIT FACTOR is a completely new and revolutionary philosophy — based on the simplicity, intelligence, and wisdom of nature — that provides us the tools to tap into the limitless potential of the human spirit.
THE SPIRIT FACTOR is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.