Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God. Proverbs 14:31 (NIV).
It was 9.30pm, I had a splitting headache, and I’d put myself to bed when the phone rang. “Hello Larson, it’s Bradley … I’m in town and you’re the only person I know who can help me …” Ten minutes later I was on my bicycle and heading downtown to meet him. But first, I stopped in at The Lighthouse Men’s Shelter to see if they had a bed available. They weren’t too keen to help. Bradley had stayed with them the previous Fall and there’d been problems. Now, to complicate matters, he had a dog and they wouldn’t allow it into the residence. I cycled on to the rendezvous at my office.
He was waiting on the curb with a shopping cart that was loaded up with a tarpaulin, mosquito net, sleeping bag, bed roll, fishing rod, shoes, guitar and a cardboard sign with “Bradley”, “Scott Mission”, “Larson Murray Pastor”, “Good riddance Toronto” and other phrases scrawled with a black marker. I was introduced to Maggie, the cross German shepherd, and we sat down to talk. For more than an hour Bradley told his story; how his life had been threatened in Toronto, being put out of his home because of an altercation with the neighbours, how the police kept moving him on, and with tears in his eyes, about the way “those people” had separated him from his wife Cathy.
While listening to Bradley’s story I was desperately trying to figure out how to look after him for the night. Maggie had been nuzzling me and I realised she had fleas. I was reluctant to take them home (Bradley insisted on sleeping with his dog). Bradley, just happy for the company and oblivious to my concerns, had fished out his battered old guitar and a harmonica in a frame which he placed around his neck. He began to play – a concert just for me. He stopped singing every now and again because he couldn’t remember the words to the song, but that was okay, I knew he was giving me the only gift he had to give.
I finally managed to make arrangements for Bradley to sleep in a vacant building which was being renovated. He was delighted, mainly because he felt safe. Safety was a big concern for Bradley – it was why he had Maggie with him. We prayed together and I left, locking the door on my way out.
Cycling home up the Peter Street hill in the midnight gloom I suddenly felt a hard blow to the small of my back as a red car drove by. A youth in the car yelled, stuck his hand out of the sky roof and gave me the finger, then gunned the motor and swerved down a side street. I’d been plastered with egg. Interestingly, the first thought that came to mind was, “At least Bradley’s safe!”
Early next morning I met up with Bradley, and with shopping cart and Maggie in tow, we went to Tim Horton’s for breakfast. We parted an hour later, me to my office, and Bradley to wherever his wanderings would take him. Before he left I gave him a copy of the SGM Scripture booklet, Picking up the Pieces, and with a silent prayer that the Lord would indeed help Bradley pick up the pieces, I watched him wheel his cart out of the parking lot and down the street.