Sofia, Bulgaria -Winter winds beat down on the old man. He pulled a threadbare coat tightly around his stooped body and shook snow out of peasant sandals. Despite fierce weather, he held out a tin cup to gratefully accept coins from pedestrians, never taking a penny for himself. Even at age 100, the beggar walked 12 miles to his post outside Sofia’s churches. His name was Dobri Dobrev, called by some “the most humble man on earth”. Others call “Grandpa” Dobri a living saint. With his long white beard and torn clothes, he did not look like a great philanthropist, but he was just that. In 2009 he donated $22,500 to the local cathedral-the largest single donation ever received by the church. Over decades, Dobri collected nearly $50,000 to restore churches in Sofia, keeping it in the bank account of a relative.
Born in 1914, Dobri was inspired by his parents’ acts of kindness. His mother worked in an orphanage. If the orphanage ran short of money, Dobri’s father paid the power bill to protect orphans from the cold. As a young man serving as a bodyguard to the king of Bulgaria, a miracle occurred in Dobri’s life. Terrorists set off a bomb, attempting to kill the king. Inexplicably, Dobri survived and came to believe that God had a special mission for him. He devoted his life to God, eventually living in a cell attached to a monastery, giving gifts to the poor and homeless. During World War II, he helped shelter Jews from Nazi persecution. All of these works he tried to keep hidden, but the world discovered him.
Admirers established a Facebook page that garnered 300,000 followers. Documentary films have been made depicting the life of a man who gave away all his possessions to rely on the mercy of God. Images of Dobri have appeared on Youtube videos and Twitter. Probably unknown to him, his kind face has been tweeted and retweeted thousands of times. His message was always the same.
He said, “The goodwill is just and true. Everything in it is good. We must love each other as God loves us.”
Dobri Dobrev died on February 13, 2018 at the age of 103. His name comes from the Bulgarian word for good.