Two days after David got home from his mission, he went to the fitness center his family had joined while he’d been away. An hour later, after working out and taking a shower, he stood with a towel wrapped around him, in front of a mirror. He began to blow-dry his hair. A guy his age approached the mirror, spread shaving cream on himself and began to shave his chest with a razor.
David had never seen anyone shave their chest before—he couldn’t help but stare.
The guy noticed David in the mirror. “How’s it going?” he asked. He turned around and stuck out his hand. “Brad Eppley here. Commodity trading.”
They shook hands. “I’m David Warner.”
“David, great to meet you. I notice you’ve got hair on your chest. The only reason I mention it is because most of the guys in the club shave their chests.”
“I didn’t have hair on my chest when I was 12. So why is a hairless chest such a big advantage now?”
Brad flexed and glanced at his reflection. “Shows muscle definition. And girls love it. With girls, appearance is everything. You know, like the kind of car you have. By the way, what do you drive?”
“A ’78 Pontiac.”
“That ugly green bomb that’s dripping oil all over the parking lot is yours? What do you do, wear a mask when you get into it so nobody will know who you are?”
“It’s not so bad. It gets me around.”
“Yeah, like that’s really the purpose of a car. You seem so out of it. When’s the last time you went out with a girl?”
“It’s been two years.”
Brad threw up his hands. “Well, there you have it! I’m not surprised.”
“The reason I haven’t dated for two years is because I’ve been on a mission for my church.”
“Are you a Mormon?”
“Yes, I am.”
“How much do they pay you to do that?”
“I paid my own way.”
“Why would you do a thing like that?”
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“You want to know what I’ve accomplished in the last two years? Plenty, I’ll tell you. Right now I drive a BMW, I live in the best condo in town, I’ve got the best sound system they make, I go out with the best looking girls. And what have you got to show for your two years?”
“I’m grateful for the experiences I had.”
“What kind of experiences?”
“Having my prayers answered, knowing that Heavenly Father loved the people we were working with.”
“Well, that’s all fine and good, but tell me this, can you deposit experiences like that in a bank?”
“No, but I wouldn’t trade my mission for any amount of money.”
“Look, no offense intended, but maybe you’re not really right for this club. I mean, there’s plenty of other places to work out where you’d feel more comfortable. Like outside, for example, where all those biblical things are—you know, like animals and flowers, things like that. I mean it’s just a thought.”
“You may be right. Is everyone here like you?”
“No, not everybody. For me, though, this club is perfect. They’re open every day of the year, even Christmas. Okay, I admit it, I’m a little on the compulsive side. I come here every day. I have a routine—Monday, abs; Tuesdays, pects …”
“Abdominal muscles. Pects is pectoral muscles. You don’t get around much, do you? By the way, do Mormons have monasteries? I mean, if they do, you’d be perfect. Well, anyway, I come here every day. If I miss one day I really feel it. Like the time my aunt died. They made me go to the funeral. Yeah, this is a great place. Cheyenne and I come every day. You might have noticed her. You can’t help noticing her. But don’t get any ideas. I’m the man of her dreams, the key to her heart and, really, if you think about it, the hope of her future.”
“Well, good for her. Excuse me.” David went into the locker room to get dressed.
Brad finished shaving his chest, wiped off the excess shaving cream with a towel, and then smeared a white cream on his chest. He came out to talk to David. “You want to know why I’m doing this now?” he asked.
David sighed. “Well, not really, but go ahead.”
“To rid myself of razor stubble. Let me tell you, it’s a big problem. You put on your shirt and it’s like having sandpaper on your chest. This cream is supposed to take care of that. It’s the first time I tried it. Wish me luck.”
Just as David was about to leave, Brad suddenly yelled, “Aaaah!” He rushed into the locker room area. “I’m having some kind of allergic reaction! My whole chest is on fire. I’m going to take another shower to get this stuff off me. Look, can you go find Cheyenne and tell her what I’m going through. Tell her not to worry about me though. She’ll be in the snack bar drinking a large tomato juice. That’s all she ever drinks.”
It was easy for David to find Cheyenne. Brad was right—she was beautiful and she was drinking a large tomato juice.
“I have a message from the man of your dreams,” David said, trying to keep a straight face.
“I don’t dream much actually. Sometimes though, when I have a pepperoni pizza late at night, I have a recurring nightmare.”
“By any chance is your nightmare about a guy with an absolutely hairless chest?”
She laughed. “How did you know?”
“I met him. He told me to tell you he was having a reaction to the cream he put on his chest to get rid of razor stubble.”
“Poor baby,” she snickered. She pointed to a full glass of tomato juice on the other side of the table. “You want some tomato juice? I ordered one for Brad, but it looks like he’ll be a while.”
“You might not want to be seen with me.”
“See that car out there? It’s mine.”
“You’ve been around Brad too much. Sit down and drink the tomato juice.”
He sat down and took a sip. “This is the first time I’ve been alone with a girl for two years.”
She looked worried. “What were you in for?”
“You don’t look like the armed robbery type. And with that car of yours it couldn’t have been auto theft.”
“I wasn’t in prison.”
“Sorry. What were you doing for two years?”
“I was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“The Mormons, right? That sounds like a nice thing to do. What was it like?”
He told her about his mission and then said, “I’m really grateful for the experiences I had.”
She looked up from her tomato juice. “You’re the first guy I’ve met who said he was grateful for anything. What are you grateful for? What did you get out of your mission?”
“I found out what’s really important in life?”
“The people we meet every day are important.”
“Because every one of them is our brother or our sister.”
“That makes you my brother then, doesn’t it?”
She gave him a teasing smile, but then looked into his eyes, recognized something very deep and serious, became uncomfortable, and looked away.
They talked for another 20 minutes, until Brad came in and sat down. “You still here?” he asked David.
“I asked him to stay,” Cheyenne said. “I’ve never met anyone like him before.”
“Is that right? Well, you should see his chest. It’s an absolute hairy mess I’ll tell you.”
“Why do you think I care about things like that? It doesn’t mean a thing to me.”
“Well thanks a lot, after I slave all day. What’s this guy got that I don’t have?”
“Gratitude. You have everything a guy could want, but I’ve never heard you say you were grateful for any of it.”
“Hey, look, everything I’ve got is like teetering on the edge of a huge cliff and any moment it can all be swept away. I have to keep fighting just to stay where I am. There’s no time for gratitude in my life.”
“Are you grateful that I came into your life?”
He paused. “It’s not like you don’t get anything from our relationship. I’ve introduced you to some very influential people.”
“Are you grateful for anything?” Cheyenne asked.
“I’d be grateful if you’d quit talking about this.”
There was an uneasy silence. “I’d better go,” David said.
“Let me walk you to your car,” she said.
“Don’t even go near that car,” Brad said. “What if somebody sees you?”
“I’ll take my chances.”
David and Cheyenne walked out to his car. “Beautiful sunset,” he said.
They stopped to look at the sunset. “You find something every day to be grateful for, don’t you?”
“Even when things are going bad?”
“There’s always something to be grateful for.” He opened his car door. “I’d better go.”
“What if sometime I decide I want a little more gratitude in my life? What would I have to do?”
“You could start by coming to church with me.”
“That doesn’t sound too hard.”
“I could come by for you this Sunday.”
“Actually I think it’d be better if I drove myself. Brad gets kind of crazy with jealousy sometimes.”
“Yeah, sure. Church starts at nine. Do you know where it is?”
“I pass by it every day on my way to work.”
“I’ll wait for you at the door.”
Brad came running out. “We need to go now. Get in the car.”
“See you.” She turned and walked toward Brad’s BMW. “Brad, did you notice the sunset?”
“What about it?”
“It’s not like I’ve never seen a sunset before. I mean, it happens every day.”
“I think today I will choose to be grateful for a sunset.”
“How can you talk about sunsets when my chest is still on fire?” They got in the car and drove off. David stayed a minute more to look at the sunset, and then he drove home.