Bicycle Bobby

Bicycle Bobby

When I first met Bobby, he was homeless.  He came to our street ministry on a Frankenstein-like bicycle someone had given him.  Plastic bags were strapped all over it, all his earthly possessions.  Wearing his signature black motorcycle helmet and Carhart coveralls, his eyes shown a goodness through his scraggly beard and gray hair.  His smile was broad and genuine and easy even though he was missing several crucial teeth.  Over time, Bobby got hooked up with some benefits, and was able to get himself off the street and into an apartment.  And he took in a stray cat.  Every Saturday, he would regale us with tales of what his cat had been up to the week before as he sipped hot coffee or enjoyed a steaming cup of Melia’s Texas chili.  Of course the benefits also gave him a little “extra” that he usually spent on a little liquor.  He often came out a little lit and smelling like bathtub gin.  But even half-lit, he has a light about him…a goodness…a joy.

I saw Bobby all over town.  He rode that bike everywhere.  He was hard to miss with his reflector vest and motorcycle helmet.  He still had bags strapped all over his bike, though he had upgraded the bike to a nice mountain bike variety.  He came out to StreetLife every week just for prayer and to hang out.  And he came to Despensa several times a month for groceries and just to shoot the breeze with the guys out front.  Everyone knows Bobby.  I also think it is safe to say that everyone who knows Bobby, also loves Bobby.  The Kingdom of God is such that a man who so many people once stepped over without even noticing had become a prince in the hearts of hundreds of people.  To say that Bobby is a little “sketchy” would be an understatement, but in these footholds of the Kingdom, he felt listened to and valued and understood.  Bobby is the treasure of heaven.

Somewhere along the way, Bobby got himself a prepaid cell phone.  I apparently was in his contact list, as he took to calling me every week at all hours.  I cherish those calls.  If I can’t answer the phone, I am greeted with the same joyous message: “Hey! This is Bobby! Call me baaaack!!”  About a month ago those calls stopped.  I thought maybe his money had run out.  I kept having this nagging sense that I should call him and check on him, but something always seemed to come up.  I figured he’d show up at Despensa and I’d give him a hard time about his social life getting too busy to call his old low-life friends like me.  But he didn’t show up for a month.  That was not at all like him.  I started to wonder if I had done something to get him mad at us.

On November 1st, Bobby was crossing 27th Street at Center and was hit by a car, severing both of his legs.  There will be no more bicycling for Bobby.  As so often happens with the poor who have no family and no means, he just kind of disappeared.  The poor do not suffer among the company of caring people, because all too often they simply don’t have the means to contact anybody.  They just go into the system, swallowed whole.  Many of them die and their bodies go unclaimed until they are finally buried in unmarked graves in Potter’s Field.  Their pets die in their now unoccupied apartments because no one ever visits or checks in on them. They suffer as they live, unseen…unknown…too often unloved.  Bobby called me yesterday and told me of his plight.  He started the conversation completely normally in his usual joyful and totally sketchy way, and it was only five minutes into our catching up that he said in that same joyous and sketchy way, “Guess what!” I said, “No idea, Bobby, what?”  He said, “I got my legs cut off.”  Silence.  “What?”

He told me about what happened.  As he spoke, I couldn’t hold the tears back.  Not just about his horrible situation, but I cried as I listened to him simply say, “It stinks but what are you gonna do?”  This is a man who had always lived in God’s hands.  He is God’s own…truly among the least of these.  And I cried because I know what happens to the least of these in this world.  I wish I didn’t know.  Jesus knew a guy like Bobby.  His name was Lazarus.  Bobby isn’t dead, but now I know why Jesus wept.



  1. Thank you, Max, for sharing Bobby with us.

    blessings and convictions – always,

  2. Suzan Odabasi Said:

    This post reminds me of what William Butler Yeats called “Terrible Beauty.” Please continue sharing about Bobby. I will be thinking of him and participate in and pass on info about the card writing.

    • Thank you, Suzan. This is the sharp end of missional living. We hurt when the people we love hurt. Adds new depth to the term: “at the foot of the Cross”. How cool would it be for this guy who has so little to get cards from all over the world?!?!?!

  3. Sam Said:

    Max, thank you for sharing, and for caring. You are right on the dot..too often the homeless get lost, not only to this world, but even to ourselves sometimes. Thank you for the info on the cards, he will be getting at least one from us soon.

    We love you, keep up the good work for the Kingdom,


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