My friend Gary Gibson writes,
Fifty years ago this summer, I ran away from home, never to return. I was only 13 years old. Since my mother had no means of supporting 5 kids after divorcing my Dad, we had no other option than to live with my Dad. I was the oldest child and my 2 brothers and 2 sisters were with me in the 3-bedroom apartment in a bad neighborhood.
It was not going well for us there and after 2 months, I thought about running away. I hesitated because I felt responsible for the younger ones. But one day after a bad experience with Dad, I just decided “I’ve got to get out of here!” I was afraid to leave, but more afraid to stay. Where would I go? I had a vague idea of going to New York City since I had heard it was easy to get work down there, but it was 200 miles away and I had no money. Instead, I remembered an open invitation from a fellow Boy Scout I had met at summer camp. He said I could come visit him anytime. He lived a neighboring city.
On August 21, 1963 I slipped quietly out of the house at 6:45 am to go to the 7 am Mass at our parish church. I knew what I was doing was dangerous. I knew I needed help. So I prayed “Jesus, take care of me”. After Mass, I hitchhiked out of town. An hour later, a kind man dropped me off in the next town. He could guess what I was up to and gave me a dollar bill, saying “Be careful, young man”. I knew I was close to my destination and walked the remaining distance to the house.
The family opened their home to me (guessing I was in some kind of trouble), but my friend was away that week. They gave me his room to sleep in and allowed me to stay there for a couple days. By then, it was clear I was a runaway and they told me to contact my family. I called my maternal grandmother and arrangements were made for me to be driven there that day.
Once in my grandparents apartment, I poured out my whole story to them, sparing no detail to describe the chaos and pain back home. I asked them to let me stay there for a while. The both went into another room to discuss this. I overheard my grandfather say “We are too old for this”. So I barged in and pleaded with them “please let me stay here – I promise to be good and I will leave in 2 years for the high school seminary”. They did give me the chance and then became my legal guardians – for the next 8 years!
Meanwhile, my brothers and sisters were taken to an orphanage a short time after I ran away. Eventually, they all went to different foster homes, and sadly, we never lived together again. I did go to the seminary but only for a year, since I was still a little “rough around the edges”. Next I was sent to a Rhode Island “prep school” with room and board for 3 years where I flourished academically and athletically. Because of good grades and my lack of any financial support, I qualified for a full 4-year scholarship to Boston College.
It was in my first year of college that God blessed me with a discovery of the charismatic prayer movement and professor Peter Kreeft. My faith was renewed in a powerful way and I received a great education in Philosophy and Theology. I considered entering a major seminary, but God had a different plan for me and I met Ellen – another “revolution” in my life, which changed the whole shape of who I would become. So here I am, a 63-year-old man, with the same wife of 37 years, 5 great kids, and 4 beautiful grandkids (with another one on the way). Like every human being, I’ve had my share of loss and pain, many blessings and undeserved gifts, and a growing knowledge of the Faith I was born into as a babe.
The hand of the Lord is very clear in my life. I am profoundly grateful for the help and support I received. Had I gone to a foster home, I may have prospered there as well. God is not limited to our ideas and plans. I have found what I was so restless for – the purpose and meaning of my life. I am satisfied. I live in great peace and hope, even with life’s storms. There is a line in the song “How Can I Keep from Singing?” that says “No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging”. I know I am loved. That knowledge gets me through the setbacks, personal failures, betrayals, pain and death we all face.
Whenever I hear the song “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, I always say to myself : “Well, Mick, maybe you are looking in all the wrong places!” We all long to know the One Who made us and no substitute will satisfy that longing. As Peter Kreeft says : “There’s a God-shaped hole in every human heart and if we have not found Him, we will fill it with something else.” Make certain you find the One Who loves you the most and “All Shall Be Well”.
Gary Gibson, Christ the King Catholic Church, Ann Arbor Michigan (my parish too!)