Wilfred Bright, a.k.a. Wolfie, is a full-time volunteer with Gifted Hands — a Hope for New York affiliate that offers art, design, and craft classes for the elderly, the homeless, and people living with HIV/AIDS. Below, Wolfie shares his story of how God worked through Dustee, the founder of Gifted Hands, to bring him back to life.
I grew up in a good family. We moved from North Carolina when I was five years old, and I have lived in Brooklyn ever since. My parents raised us to be respectful. We were at church every Sunday and went to Bible school. I was the oldest of six. It was my job to take care of my four brothers and one sister, so I’ve always been responsible. And I started working when I was 14. I worked in the laundromat, in department stores, and I worked in the mailroom at a law firm on Wall Street for 25 years.
My problem was that I was following people. A person might sit here and do something and I’d want to try it. So instead of going the right way, I went the wrong way. I was too busy hanging out with the wrong people and not listening to anyone who told me differently.
I got involved doing drugs. At the time I lived with my parents, but they had rules, and I didn’t want to go by any rules. So they told me to leave. I stayed with friends for a while, but then I ended up homeless, living in Tompkins Square Park for four years in a place called Tent City.
I didn’t have faith in God then. People would talk about how Jesus was going to do this and Jesus was going to do that, but I was still homeless. I was still going through so much. And I got tired of waiting for Him. So I gave up. I didn’t trust Him.
While I was homeless, I got sick and was placed in a nursing home called Rivington House. That’s when I met Dustee, who started Gifted Hands, a non-profit arts outreach for HIV/AIDS patients. She would come to my hospital room weekly to talk or pray for me, but I didn’t want to be bothered. I would turn up the TV, pull the curtain, slam the door. I had given up.
But Dustee kept coming to see me anyway. At that time, God had started talking to me, saying to give her a chance, that she was trying to help me, there was a reason she kept coming in here praying for me. God had also kept coming to me in a dream. I ignored it for a while, until one night I had this dream where God came to me. It was scary. When I woke up, right then and there I felt like God came and got me. He rescued me in that moment. When I saw Dustee I told her about my dreams, and we prayed together, and I gave myself to my God. And He has blessed me so much since then.
Since Jesus came into my life, He’s really changed me. All that negativity is gone. He’s taken it away. I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “Wow. This is what I’ve been missing all these years. This is the Mr. Bright I was meant to be.” Now I listen to God and learn what He wants for me. And I love myself now. I see myself the way Jesus sees me. I feel like God has brought me back to life, and He used Dustee — I call her my spiritual mother — to do it.
That was five years ago. Today, I volunteer with Gifted Hands full-time. I lead two jewelry design programs where we also do a devotional. Dustee is mentoring me to be a leader in Gifted Hands, and my pastor is mentoring me to become a deacon in our church. I also started going out across the city a couple times a week to give hats and scarves or socks and protein bars to the homeless and pray with them.
When I’m out there doing this, God is saying, “I got you Mr. Bright. I love what you’re doing. I have your back.” I get emotional, because I was there. But God is blessing me so much. I can’t believe I’m out there serving the homeless. That used to be me. But I know I’m not serving by myself. It’s God.
Sometimes I sit back and I think, “Wow. I came a long way.” But I didn’t do it on my own. Jesus, He’s helping me with this. And He’s not finished with me yet.
Interested in getting involved serving your neighbors through a program like Gifted Hands? Hope for New York partners with 50 non-profits across the city serving a variety of needs. Learn more at hfny.org/volunteer.