A recent NPR story tells the story behind Richard Leroy Walters and his legacy. To make a long story short, the late Richard Leroy Walters was an engineer who left behind an estate valued well into the millions of US dollars. He left it to several different nonprofits, including a Catholic mission in Phoenix and NPR.
The distinguishing factor between Walters and other millionaires? Walters was homeless; his physical possessions fit inside a backpack. He slept on the grounds of a local senior citizen’s center, ate at a hospital, and used telephones at both places.
I can’t honestly think of words to describe how I reacted to reading this story. Having never been truly homeless for longer than a day, it’s difficult to grasp how Richard could willingly just walk out of his last residence and take to the streets.
Maybe it was the sense of adventure, or a desire for freedom from not owning the material possessions of the rest of the world. Money can’t buy everything.
Apparently, two things were more important to Richard than anything else: leaving a legacy and dying a happy man. I have no doubts he fulfilled both, but I don’t think his choices are right for just anyone.