Melvin and Carl: Watching One Another Win

Melvin Scates and Carl Lillard have been traveling the same path; where they’ve been and where they are going. However, the biggest difference for the two is all in the timing of their journey.

Melvin and Carl met thirty years ago at the Nashville Rescue Mission, where they were both staying. The two became fast friends, working together, and getting high together. Because of his violent behavior, Melvin often found himself kicked out of shelters and other places. When Melvin couldn’t get help, Carl would make sure to bring him food and be sure he was taken care of.

About 15 years ago, Melvin turned his life around. He found God, got involved in church, got married, bought a house, and eventually became a member of the staff at Room In The Inn, where he serves as a care coordinator at the Guest House, a place of recovery for those with addiction issues. Carl says he remembers hearing about Melvin’s turn around, and, laughing, simply says “I didn’t believe it.” 

While Melvin’s life looked completely different, Carl’s life continued in struggle with chronic homelessness, addiction, and life on the streets. In June 2015, however, Carl entered the Guest House, where his friend Melvin works. Carl completed a 30-day recovery program, and has spent time working on his sobriety. His goal is to get his life back, get clean, and develop a better relationship with his family. Another Room In The Inn staff member talked to Carl one day when he was drunk and encouraged him to look for a better life. Melvin says, “I’m so glad somebody took the initiative to talk to him. He had to be the one to do it, though.”

“It’s his season. It’s his time now,” said Melvin, “I’ve seen him come from one end to the other. He’s always been a part of me. Helping him is helping me. I’m watching him win.”

One of the lessons Melvin tries to impart on people who come to the Guest House for recovery is to take advantage of the help others offer. “When somebody puts their hand out to help, grab it,” he says.

Now Carl has joined Melvin in offering help to others. Carl has taken the lead in offering hospitality to guests who are often intoxicated and difficult to care for. The two men share a bond from living on the streets with one another that makes their working relationship special. They have a direct understanding of the suffering and pain of addiction, but also the great freedom of sobriety. They each credit the other with teaching the lesson of patience. Carl says, “You have to see the good things that are coming. You’ve got to be patient. Slow down and wait.”

Melvin and Carl’s eyes light up when they think about the work that is still in front of them. They look forward to inspiring others they know to start the journey of recovery. Melvin says, “I just thank God for looking over both of us. There will be more.”