It’s been a hot, dry summer in Georgia. But sweltering heat couldn’t stop Fred Barley, a homeless college student. Nor could more than 50 miles of scorching pavement between the town where Fred lived in a tent this summer to the town where he’ll attend college this fall.
Two weeks ago, Fred borrowed his little brother’s 20-inch bike, strapped on his possessions and two gallons of water, then pedaled six hours to Gordon College in Barnesville.
He arrived only to discover that campus dorms weren’t yet open for the next semester. Fred decided to wait it out. He pitched his tent in some bushes on campus, figuring he could soon find work to buy food, since all he had was a box of cereal.
That’s part of the story I wanted to tell you today, because Fred’s persistence and attitude will inspire me — and maybe inspire you — to keep right on going the next time a project demands a little more sweat or when the next challenge calls for an extra mile.
But I also have to touch on the second act of Fred’s story — especially when considering the tragedies we’ve experienced in the United States during recent weeks.
When Fred returned to his tent after job-hunting, two police officers were waiting. The biology major, who dreams of going to medical school, told the officers his story.
“We can’t allow you to stay here,” one officer said, “but I have somewhere you can stay.”
And with that, the officers loaded Fred and his stuff in their squad car, took him to a motel and paid for his next two nights.
“I am black and he didn’t care what color I was,” Fred told WSB-TV. “He just helped me and that meant a lot.”
And that’s just the beginning of goodness. Gordon College intends to let Fred move in early. Until then, the motel owner is giving Fred his room for free.
A pizzeria offered Fred a part-time job that will work around his school schedule. Local people have given Fred an adult-size bike, new clothes and school supplies. Others are taking care of his dental and medical needs.
So the next time we’re facing tough days or demanding assignments, let’s remember the attitude and fortitude of Fred Barley.
And the next time we notice people who could use quick smiles or helping hands, let’s remember the kindness and willingness of those good folks in Barnesville.
If we do those things, the best is yet to come.