We live in a world where our own life often has the power to consume us. We walk through crowds fixated on where we need to go and what need to do, forgetting that we are just one piece in the puzzle of humanity.
Because of this we often miss out on opportunities to help, heal, and connect with the world and people around us. There are opportunities for us to make a difference every day, and there is no greater reminder of just how powerful we can be when we decide to step outside of ourselves and work for others than the story of Bob in Hobart and what the Northwest Indiana community is doing for him now.
Bob is homeless, has been for ten years, and from what we know he is a former diesel mechanic with no tools or transportation to his name. He’s looked for jobs, but without the necessary tools or transportation it has been a difficult journey.
Bob has been homeless for so long partly because he has never asked for help, but more importantly, because we never asked to help him.
That’s all changed now, thanks to some Region residents who decided to do more than what most would probably do and take the time to reach out to Bob and get to know him as a member of our tight-knit Northwest Indiana community.
Brittany Nicole Mikolajczyk had seen Bob throughout Hobart, often in the library with her girls, sitting in the same spot. But it wasn’t until one day in Festival Park after going through some tough times of her own, that she decided it was finally time to meet Bob.
“I have been going through some family struggles and stresses and had a break down emotionally,” Mikolajczyk told IIMM. “I came home from work early to deal with things, and I decided to gather the energy to get out of the house with my girls, so we went to Festival Park and there was Bob.”
When Mikolajczyk went home to prepare sandwiches for her girls at the park she packed a couple extra this time for Bob. Bob, who had just eaten and had nowhere to save the sandwiches for later, politely declined, but what he did agree to was to open himself up and share his story with Mikolajczyk.
And what Brittany found was that Bob was just like many other people in Northwest Indiana, someone who fell on hard times, only things didn’t come together for him.
“I asked him how?,” added Mikolajczyk. “He said ‘How did I end up like this? It’s a long story.’ But he was so kind and filled in all the blanks when I was trying to ask questions about how this all happened.”
After her experience with Bob, Mikolajczyk knew it was time to introduce the rest of The Region to him as well and started a Facebook page that now has more than 700 members, many of whom had seen or know Bob.
One person in particular, Tiffany Bailey, saw Mikolajczyk’s post and knew it was time for her to take action too.
“I have seen Bob around the lakefront for about three years,” Bailey told IIMM. “I moved to Valpo awhile ago and I saw Brittany (Mikolajczyk) post something on one of the garage sale sites, talking about Bob, and I knew exactly who she was talking about.”
When Bailey saw the weather was going to get warmer, she bought clothes for Bob to help him keep cool. He politely declined, just like he did with the sandwiches, but just like with Mikolajczyk, he shared with her his story and taught her valuable life lessons in the process.“He taught me not to judge a book by its cover,” added Bailey. “We don’t know another person’s struggles and he has dreams to get his G.E.D. and become an ironworker. Most importantly, he told me had he been this way for almost ten years and I knew then I had to do something.”
When Bailey got home she shared her story of Bob in a Facebook post that caught fire and connected with the Facebook page set up to raise awareness and funds for Bob. Since then, a GoFundMe page has also been started and is already at $1,300 of its $2,000 goal, and people from all over Northwest Indiana have come together to offer ways they can help rebuild the life of Bob.
Thanks to some brave people and the generosity of a community, Bob could be close to getting back on his feet, but what we should always remember is that there are more “Bobs” out there waiting for someone like you or I to take a small second out of our lives and make a big difference.