Inspired to Kick the Habit

He'd long tried to stop smoking, but a word from a mysterious stranger did the trick.


A man's hand crumples a pack of cigarettes.

I asked my wife, Georgia, to give me some ideas of things she would like for Christmas. She didn’t hesitate. “I would be pleased with only one gift,” she said. “That you quit smoking.”

Anyone addicted to cigarettes knows how difficult it is to quit. Whenever business got slow at the café we owned—or too busy—I eased my nerves with a smoke.

Georgia worried about my health, as did I, but I couldn’t stay motivated long enough to fight that urge to light up. I tried again, but by Christmas I was still sneaking drags of a cigarette when the cravings became too much to bear. Georgia forgave me, though I knew she was disappointed.

Not long after the holiday, I paced the café one afternoon, trying again to fight that craving. The lunch rush had come and gone; my waitress and I were the only ones there. Perfect time for a smoke. I approached the cigarette vending machine near the entrance, dropped my coins in and pulled the lever for my brand.

That’s when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Startled, I looked up to see a man with a tan complexion and penetrating blue eyes. He gave me a pleasant smile. “I just want to tell you, as one human being to another, you are killing yourself,” he said. Then he gently tapped my shoulder again and left the café.

I asked the waitress if she had served the man. “What man?” she said. “It’s just been you and me in here since lunch.”

Soon after, I quit smoking for good. I credit the motivation of that mysterious stranger, who helped me give a belated Christmas gift to my wife and added years to my life.


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