“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” — William Shakespeare (paraphrased from Julius Ceasar)
Bradley is a big fan of over-the-top entertainers: the professional wrestler known as The Undertaker, comedian Curly Howard of the Three Stooges, actor Tom Cruise in the “Mission Impossible” movies.
Bradley’s own approach, however, is more understated. Regular guests at Columbia’s Goodwill store know his humble greeting — and the cheerful smile that accompanies it — well.
“Good morning, sir (or ma’am). How are you, sir? You need a buggy today?”
Bradley, 39, thoroughly enjoys his job as the store’s greeter. He relishes meeting new people and chatting with anyone who has a spare moment about his favorite topics: movies, TV, football, hockey or wrestling. But most of all, Bradley loves to serve.
“It makes me feel good to help people,” he says.
The many who have taken the time to get to know Bradley, such as Holly Potter of Columbia, are always welcomed to the store by name.
“He’s generous and kind, always opening the door when your hands are full — he’s just a real sweetheart,” Potter says.
But in spite of being a familiar fixture in Columbia, few know Bradley’s full story.
Bradley’s heart stopped when he was being born. Afterward, he spent several days in breathing distress in the ICU. His mother, Sandra Morton, says doctors were baffled as to the cause of his health problems.
Over the next few years, he seemed healthy, but he lagged behind other children. He did not walk until 18 months, and he developed an unusual speech pattern called echolalia that did not respond well to therapy.
At 11, Bradley’s spine began to curve, and an MRI revealed malformations of his skull and spine. Doctors drained a buildup of excess fluid, and afterward his speech rapidly began to improve.
“He didn’t have words before to tell us how he felt, but evidently he was in pain,” Sandra said.
The next year, Bradley underwent surgery to correct his spinal curve. In many ways, it was a new beginning.
During high school, Bradley participated in a special education program that allowed him to work part-time at a local sponge factory. He liked the job and continued working there for many years after graduating, until the operation closed and he was laid off in 2010.
Bradley stayed home for the next six years, sometimes helping his father to mow lawns but often bored and restless. He and his mother frequently shopped at Goodwill, and Bradley got to know several of the employees.
One day in the summer of 2016, Bradley asked the store’s manager, Becky Kelley, for a job.
“He was telling me that he really wanted to work at Goodwill, so I thought it was a good idea,” recalls Kelley, who is now a Goodwill training coach. “His mom said it would help him to come out of his shell a little bit.”
Bradley was hired, and though he was a bit shy at first, he soon blossomed under the guidance of Kelley and Kim McDonald, who now manages the store.
Bradley’s mother said the job has done wonders for him.
It has absolutely helped him socially and emotionally, working here and being around people,” she says. “He counts everyone that comes into the store as a friend.”
Customer Holly Potter said she feels Bradley is a perfect example of the power of Goodwill’s mission of changing lives through education, training and employment.
“Bradley’s job gives him a place to interact with others, where he might not have that ability otherwise,” she says. “It allows him the chance to make a difference in our community.”
Bradley is proud that with his paycheck he can help pay his family’s cable TV bill or take his mother to the movies to see his favorite action film stars. Like those celebrities, Bradley inspires others through his work. And they share another trait: a desire for longevity in their professions.
“I’d like to be working here for a long time,” he says.