This post is an original article written by Pete Howell.  Pete joined the Canadian Army Reserves when he was 17 years old and served over 6 years in the Canadian Forces. Today, he’s in Sales and Business Development within the manufacturing sectors specifically within Rotating and Mechanical Applications across Western Canada. The original post can be found here  and is republished by permission.

It was 4:30am in the morning; while I was out for a 10km run (6 miles) in preparation and conditioning for a Half-Marathon, I had a very humbling and inspirational moment.

Where I live it’s still very dark at this time of the day, and can also get crisp in late October. This morning was no different, which was cool and also wet so naturally I had to dress for the weather. I was just getting into the first couple kilometers of my run crossing over a ravine onto a narrow bridge path, and also had my ear buds in listening to my music. Now naturally, at 4:30am when it’s dark out, you don’t expect to see very many people, but at the same time you have to be aware of your surroundings.

It caught me off guard at first because I had my ear buds in; out of nowhere a guy on a bike came up behind me. At first I looked back, then I cursed because he scared the crap out of me. Plus at that time of day, you have no idea who you might come across.

I kept running and waived him by and gave him some room for his bike. He didn’t go by and kept following me slowly, then gestured for me to take my ear buds out. Now at this point my guard is completely up and I’m ready for whatever might happen in the next few seconds. I live in the city, it’s natural and especially at night when you’re off the beaten path.

He was a middle aged gentleman who was wearing a ball cap, heavier jacket and also had a backpack while riding a mountain bike. It was a very humbling and inspirational moment what happened next.

Because it was cold out, I was wearing my camouflage Army hoody and Support the Troops cap which I normally run in that attire anyways so nothing special. When I took my ear buds out to hear what the man was saying, that is when he said something to me that I’ll never forget.

The first thing this gentleman said to me was: “Hey, are you a soldier?”. I said yes, I served in the Army several years ago. Without hesitation he then patted me on the back and told me; ‘That’s pretty cool, thank you for everything you guys do for all of us’.

At this point, I let my level of guard down and we continued to run and bike beside each other for about 150 meters. During that short period of time, I asked him what he does and what brings him out here this early in the morning? Without a blink of an eye, he responded;

Unfortunately, I am a 48 year old drug addict

I was not expecting that answer and didn’t even know how to respond properly. All I could say was; ‘Hey it’s never too late to get cleaned up’ and I patted him on the back.

After I said that, he responded and told me it was very inspiring for him to see me out here running this early in the morning. Then he began asking why I was out this early, so I told him I was getting ready to compete in the ‘Loops for Troops’ Half-Marathon next spring. He seemed pretty impressed with that as well and began asking me a few more questions which I answered.

I have to admit; on many levels I have respect for this man, because he didn’t hide the fact that he was a drug addict but he knew it wasn’t healthy. He was also pretty clean cut, never bothered me and didn’t even ask for anything. That gentleman didn’t fit the typical stereotypes of addicts you might hear about or see on television. Who knows what his story is or how long he’s been going through some stuff, it wasn’t my place to ask anyway. We chatted a few more steps and then we went our separate ways quietly.

It also made me realize how so many people who are struggling in one way or another, whether its addiction, financially, stress, mental, emotional, or physical health and they feel they can’t get through it some days. This middle aged man knows what he’s dealing with even if it’s sad and I hope he does get the help he needs. The first step in solving any problem; is admitting that you have one in the first place which this man recognized it at least.

It made me reflect that there are certain thing’s in my own life and maybe yours as well that we have to keep working on, even though some days are harder than others. We should appreciate what we have even if it doesn’t seem like much, it’s more then what that 48 year old gentleman has based on our conversation. It just goes to show you that we are all human beings. No matter whom you are, where you come from or what you’re dealing with, we can learn and even help each other without even knowing it.

That gentleman inspired me; he doesn’t even know it I’m sure even though we crossed paths for only 150 meters or so before going our separate ways. I’d like to think maybe on some levels after seeing me run 10km at 4:30am that it would inspire him to get himself cleaned up. I hope he does, because he seemed like a decent guy and human being despite his problems in life. It was a great way to start my day with a very humbling and reflective moment that I’ll never forget.

Thanks for reading my post and maybe it will inspire others as much as that 48 year old gentleman inspired me this morning. Please feel free to comment or share within your own networks as that was a very real and human moment you don’t always see some days.