Last night, I was shocked to learn that my dear friend Mike Roy died of a heart attack. He was such a genuinely good human being, and I wanted everyone to know a little about that.
In 13 months of living at The Bonhoeffer House (intentional Christian community), I met a variety of folks who, for one reason or another, were homeless.
A few fit our homeless stereotypes perfectly. They were still real people with real stories.
But most of them did not fit our stereotypes. As I really got to know them, I saw an incredible variety of stories and personalities, and the fact that they couldn’t find a way to handle a monthly rent payment faded into the background.
Mike Roy, specifically, was a genuine fellow with such a loving heart.
There was a lot of his story that I never understood. A Navy Veteran, he was eligible for several government programs, but found it too challenging to get back on the grid. Most mornings he would walk all over the streets of Dallas just after sunrise collecting aluminum cans to sell.
I would go to the Lakewood Branch Library frequently and I would often run into Mike, sitting in one of the chairs, either reading something about World War II (as if there was anything about World War II that he still didn’t know) or doing a crossword puzzle. Sometimes I would sit down next to him and we would both read and enjoy each other’s silent company.
Whenever you saw Mike, you could always count on him going through the list of all of our homeless friends and how they were doing.
“______ is doing okay, but the heat is really gettin’ to her. Hopefully the rain comes through and cools everything off.”
“Haven’t seen _____ since Tuesday. Not sure where he is. I think he’s fine, though.”
“_____ was in the hospital last week. Something with his foot. He’s out now, though.”
“But have you heard anything from _____? I don’t think I’ve seen him for a week now! I usually always see him around here pushin’ his cart. Have you heard anthing? I hope everything is okay.”
Some of his friends responded in kind and cared deeply for Mike. Others did not, they barely seemed to notice him. Over time, I saw that he was persistently devoted to all of them, regardless of whether they reciprocated his caring. If he felt that one of them needed protection and a watchful eye, he would find a way to sleep nearby and be ready to help if anything happened. He would do this for the same person for weeks, even in cases where the other person did not reciprocate his caring, or even notice him.
Mike loved pets. In late 2019, our friends Pam and James Rogers set up an arrangement where Mike could live with them. They had a cat named Riley, and they told me about how Mike woke up early and always loved to drink coffee and spend time with Riley during the early morning.
During early 2020, we had a Super Bowl part at Pam and James’ house and I saw this myself. Everyone else was watching the game, but Mike was holding Riley, smiling, and scratching her under her chin and behind her ears.
Once Pam and James took Mike in, he slowly started to get back on the grid. One of the first things he got was his food stamps. He decided to use them to buy food for Pam and James, as away to contribute to the friends who had taken him in. He would come to Aldi’s, next to The Bonhoeffer House, and one day he asked if he could park his cart at the house while he shopped.
“Sure, Mike.” I said. “It’ll be here when you get back.”
“Thank you, Davis. Hey, is there anything you need from Aldi’s?”
“No, I’m good to go, but thank you for asking.”
“Okay. Well. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?”
“Hahahahaha. Oh man. Mint Chocolate Chip. I never buy it for myself, and I miss it so much.”
“Hahaha. Well. We’ll see what I can do with these food stamps.”
In about 15 minutes, Mike was back with the Aldi’s one-dollar box of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I wanted to cry from happiness. We opened it together and ate some.
As Mike was about to go, he noticed that I had a bottle of rum.
“Hey, is that Don Q?”
“Haha, for sure. I got it for a party a few months back. It’s just been sitting there. Since the virus came, I doubt I’ll use it now. You can have it if you want.”
“Naw, I don’t need that. But what you say we take a shot?”
I thought to myself… Okay? At 10:30 in the morning?
I replied, “Why not? Sounds good, man.”
After that, Mike would go shopping every week on Tuesday morning. He would always show up at my door with a $1 box of mint chocolate chip ice cream. And we would always take a shot together.
One day, one of the members of The Bonhoeffer House sat with Mike and drank coffee together for a few minutes on our porch swing. Afterwards she came in and immediately said, “Mike has got to be one of my very favorite humans”.
I couldn’t agree more. I wish that I could see him just one more time.