“Forest-Mike,” a young 60-year-old man who lives outside, will get his wheels back and be able to continue his mission. I thought you might like to hear the story of how it all came about…
Over the past four years, I’ve noticed Forest riding his bike in our business neighborhood now and then. He was easy to spot because he rode a low, three-wheel recumbent bike. Although I never spoke to him, I got the impression that he was independent and self-sufficient. From looking at his bike and the well-organized cart in tow, I gathered he was camping out. I thought about what I’d do and how I’d manage if life dealt me the same hand of cards. Not every person sleeping and surviving outside is a drunk, or troubled. Some are very much like you and I, and things just happened that left them without money or resources.
My first encounter with Forest was when I was parking in a dollar-a-day parking lot next to my office. I got out, I locked my doors and was walking away. Then I noticed a man sitting in a chair across the lot watching me. When he got up and walked toward me, I expected a pitch or a sad story, but instead he told me how I could get a monthly pass at a better price. Instead of asking for a hand-out, he gave me a gift of helpful advice.
As Forest was talking to me, I tuned into his spirit and his manner and asked him, “Aren’t you the guy on the cool bike?” He then told me that someone had cut the chain and stolen his bike in the middle of the night while he was sleeping. I felt bad hearing his story, knowing his bike had to be a very important part of his world.
Having someone steal something that vital from you can be very challenging, but Forest also explained he has a hard time walking due to chronic pain in his feet. The bike was an essential part of his life. When he walks, he carries a light weight aluminum camping chair so he can rest his feet every couple of hundred feet.
I asked the obvious questions, “What did the Police say?” “Have you checked Craigslist?” Then I offered him the mountain bike that I have in storage. He smiled and said, “Thank you, but two wheelers are tough to balance. That is one of the reasons I ride a recumbent bike.” So then I asked, “What’s your plan?” He replied that he was trying to sell some stuff but times are really tough. A custom-built incumbent bike cost over $5,000.
I wanted to write him a $5,000 check right there and then, but I wasn’t in the place to do that. He was on my mind that entire day…there was something different about him.
Later that day I called up a map client, Marilyn at Coventry Cycles on Hawthorne, that sells recumbent bikes. If I couldn’t cut a check for $5,000.00, maybe I could figure something out with them. Marilyn has been through a lot herself. A couple of years ago while Marilyn was riding her bike, she was blindsided by a car that ran a red light. She was left with a serious brain injury, and mounting bills. It’s impressive to talk to a person that has suffered so much, that fights through it, adapts and overcomes. With everything she has lost and is still battling, just the fact wanted to discuss Forest’s problems, makes me a big fan. Golden moments like these are humanity at its best…people working to find ways to give to others in need when they, themselves, could use the help. She’s a great inspiration to me. At the end of our conversation Marilyn said that she was scheduled to go on a buying trip to one of her favorite manufacturers the following week, and would do what she could.
A week or so later, Marilyn called me back with the news that she’d struck a deal. Our magazine would play a small part, but she’d opened her own wallet, and Forest was going to receive a high-end “Terra Trike” to replace his that was stolen.
I realize some of you don’t know Marilyn or Forest, but neither did I until four months ago. I hope this story has been inspiring…for me, it’s the kind of thing that makes life worth living. People like Marilyn giving when it isn’t easy to give, and gentle, spiritual souls like Forest, who are wrongly stereotyped until we take the time to talk to them. I was truly blessed and inspired to get to be a part of the provision of a new bike for him. Maybe this story will lift your spirit a little today, as getting to live it has done for me.