I looked at the Facebook picture and then tried to match it to the mental picture I had of the last time I'd seen Brad. Then it got worse. Besides being homeless, he'd just been killed when he stepped out in front of a car on a darkened highway. A tragic ending to what most would call a sad life. Only God knows Brad's full story.
As I rewound the decades, I saw the pre-game excitement in late September. Like many rural towns across America, football and Friday nights went together. Brad and his team were part of a football dynasty. The fearsome athletes had a win-loss record reflecting that.
After high school Brad enlisted in the Coast Guard. From there his story has some gaps. But I have an old memory from the ski slopes of Crystal Mountain. When I came into the lodge to warm-up after a long run, Brad and his younger brother Lyle were sitting there. We sat and chatted about the best runs—they joked about who skied the fastest and who'd win the race they'd soon have. My last sight of the two brothers was watching them laugh as they headed out for another run.
Brad became known not for football, or a career, but for being the homeless Shelton man. It was especially hard after Lyle died in 2011.
Brad faced unknown challenges, but thankfully he didn't face them entirely alone, many folks helped provide food and assistance. My old church considered Brad their angel. They often fed and sheltered him. A candlelight vigil for Brad was held there last week.
The homeless leave so little behind when they die. Or do they leave behind what God sees?
Brad left a legacy of people who came to his assistance. The comments left on a Facebook post reflected the care people had for Brad. Jesus said, "...just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me."
The image of two smiling brothers heading out to race down the mountain lingers in my mind. Maybe heaven has some awesome ski slopes. This much I do know: homelessness became more personal to me. The homeless had a name, and it was Brad.
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