20 July 2012

A living Saint - Grandpa Dobri

Charity as a PR stunt, Tax relief or a genuine good deed? - You tell the difference....

This is a story that will hopefully change your perspective on charity and where true wealth, success and happiness lies.

This is the story of the 98 year old beggar Dobri of Bailovo village in Bulgaria who's become the most generous benefactor of the largest Cathedral in Eastern Europe...

Dressed in his home-spun clothes and ancient leather shoes worn in winter and summer he could often be seen standing outside the church St. Alexander Nevsky in Sofia somewhat detached and silently clutching his tin-box for coins. My last memory of him is from 2000 just before I moved to London.

Grandpa Dobri holds the key to people's hearts. Softened at his very appearance, we all rush to put a coin in the hands of the elderly man.

Nevsky is the largest Christian cathedral in Eastern Europe

Apparently he gets up early every day and walks the 10 kilometre route from his village Bailovo to Sofia. He enjoys speaking to the busy passers-by and kisses the hand of everyone who stops for a chat.

To people in Sofia he's been known for many years simply as Grandpa Dobri - the beggar.

In 2010 during filming a documentary about the Nevsky Cathedral a journalist working for the Bulgarian national TV found in the church's archives a shocking discovery -  the most generous  private donation that the church ever received was by no other than the old beggar - Granpa Dobri. It was an astounding EUR 40,000. 
The 98-year-old Bailovo saint has not touched even a single penny from the money we all thought he lived off. He apparently lives only off his 100 Euro a month retirement and what people kindly leave him - mainly fruit and bread...
Needless to say, the whole nation has been moved by his deed. Numerous films have been made about him ever since and as a result he has been proclaimed a living saint.

Many have asked why he'd chosen such a way of life. The old man usually replies that he had sinned once and this is his way of repentance.  Now, having chosen a life of a hermit, he tours the churches on public holidays, raising money for temples and monasteries. 10 years ago, when he was "still young"...he says,  he used to walk the distance from Sofia to Bailovo and other places - now he travels around the city by bus...

"Has the world changed, Grandpa Dobri?"
His concern is that few people nowadays try to seek God and pay attention to the spiritual side of things...
"Do not despair, because despair is not a good thing" he adds, immediately capturing the course of our thoughts..

People like Grandpa Dobri live by God's grace literally, every day, and are satisfied with the smallest good deed they can perform, happily wandering the paths they've chosen..

 People like him see the world in its primordial beauty and take delight in small things, with gratitude to God and the entire world.

Most likely Dobri's good deeds will remain a secret. Rumour has it he's also helped numerous needy people living in shelters. Yet, he doesn't want to talk about it..
"I've given some money to churches and monasteries, yes" - Dobri says when asked, "but I do not brag, as bragging is a devil's deed"......

He has saved a whole monastery from starvation one winter. Just as the sisters of the monastery learnt there was no money left to pay the electricity bill, the door opened and the old man offered coins without saying much.

He has managed to help the restoration of many temples, yet it has never occurred to him he could live in a different way. "God always helps us, a lot!" he says...

London Spa Girl x

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