“I didn't know anything about love. Never did,” says Carl, a 50-year-old guest at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. “The three greatest influences in my life were my father, my stepdad and my grandfather. My dad was a cop and didn't know how to show love. My grandfather taught me that all men are just competition, so never trust anyone. And my stepdad was a felon who beat me.”
Carl learned early the best way to escape stress and hardship in his life was to run. “I started running away when I was 13. I hopped a train to Detroit. After that, I ran away to Chicago, California, Seattle, Alaska, New York, Canada and a lot of other places.”
To survive, he hustled on the streets, shined shoes, worked some good jobs from time to time, lived in abandoned houses — and whenever the stress or problems got to be too much, he'd pick up and run again.
He got married twice and had four kids. And like his father before him, he knew how to provide for them. But not how to love them. So he ran from them, too. In 2004, he ended up homeless, bathing in public bathrooms and sleeping in cars, garages, or abandoned buildings.
One day, someone told him he could get a meal and a bed at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. He came that night. And two weeks later, he joined one of MRM's programs. But it took coming again in 2013 to really learn the right lessons. “This time it hit me,” he says. All his life, he thought he was running from problems. But he was really running from love. “So I had to learn how to love. It finally hit me that Jesus Christ died for me, because He loved me. So I figured if I was worth dying for, if God loved me that much, I could love myself.”
Today, Carl is reconnecting with family, especially his kids. “They turned out good. I know they love me. Now it's my turn to show them I love them, too.”