You’ve seen his type before, at the bottom of Freeway off ramps, sitting outside a church, sleeping in dark corners. His clothes are worn and dirty. He’s haggard, despairing, defeated. Or is he?
A familiar figure who spends his days sitting outside the Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria Dobri Dobrev, seems to fit this description perfectly. His weather-beaten face, long white beard, and scraggly hair coupled with his homemade clothes and shoes certainly give one the sense that he is a lost soul. But the man commonly known as ‘Grandpa’, who just turned 101, is anything but.
Dobrev remembers little of his childhood, where his widowed mother struggled to make ends meet. During World War II, a bomb exploded near him, and left him almost completely deaf. Along the way he married and had four children. And sometime around 2000 he gave away what little he had to the Church, and began begging. Until recently, in sunshine, rain, or snow, he’s walked a 15 mile route with his little donation box in hand to the Cathedral to ask for money from passersby. At his advanced age, he’s finally agreed to take public transportation, but nothing deters him from his work. And for a long time people assumed he kept the money he collected.
Recently, however, it’s come to light that Dobri has given away 100% of the donations received from his decades of begging, and has lived only on his monthly state pension of 80 euros (about $85 U.S.). Churches and orphanages have been the beneficiaries of Dobri’s generosity to the tune of 40,000 euros (almost $43,000 U.S.).
Ultimately, however, generosity should not be measured by how much one gives, but rather in how much the giving stretches the giver. Like the widow in the Gospels who gave a mite, Dobri Dobrev has been out-given by many in terms of amount donated. But because his life has essentially become a continuous act of giving, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more generous than the old man of Bajlovo.
And why does he do it? His answer is simple. “We must love each other as God loves us.”
It’s been said that we make a living by what we get, but a life by what we give. Dobri Dobrev is a living testament to that truth. What a beautiful life.
Dobri Dobrev is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.