Landing on the Shores of Mercy
There was nothing 12-year-old Anthony loved more than going fishing with his grandfather in the summer. It was their special thing. On weekends, they’d rise before dawn, tiptoe out of the house—careful not to wake Anthony’s sleeping mother on the couch—and load up the rods and tackle boxes into an old pickup truck. Before leaving the city, they’d stop at a neighborhood diner and get breakfast sandwiches.
On the banks of the river, they’d bait their hooks and watch the sun burn away the morning dew as they waited for that first exciting tug of the line. The river’s gentle flow and his grandfather’s protective presence gave Anthony peace of mind, unlike how he felt back at home in the city.
Anthony loved living with his grandfather, but when he and his mother moved in with him, it wasn’t exactly under the best circumstances. Anthony’s mother struggled to find work, due to mental health and addiction issues. Unable to pay rent, they were evicted from their apartment and had been living out of their car for months.
“Living out of a car was scary,” said Anthony. “I never felt safe and comfortable. At night, we’d park on dark streets to try and hide, but there were always people walking by looking in the windows. I always felt like I had to sleep with one eye open.”
After their car got towed one day, Anthony and his mom showed up on his grandfather’s doorstep. With a roof over his head and a responsible adult looking out for him, Anthony finally felt a sense of stability. His mother, on the other hand, slid further into substance use and rarely moved from the couch.
His grandfather did his best to shield Anthony from his mother’s destructive behavior. That’s why getting out of the house and going fishing was so important. The great outdoors offered a healthy escape, where Anthony readily absorbed his grandfather’s words of wisdom.
His whole life, Anthony repeatedly had the rug pulled out from underneath him. In a way, he’d come to expect it—that disappointment and hardship were always around the bend. Despite his fortitude, his grit crumbled when his grandfather suddenly died from an undiagnosed heart condition.
Anthony immediately became adrift, like a boat that had lost its anchor. Without a provider or dependable caretaker, Anthony reached out to members of his grandfather’s church. They took care of funeral arrangements, delivered food, and told Anthony and his mother about a place that could help—Mercy Home for Boys & Girls.
Still mourning his loss, Anthony was devastated when he walked through our doors. He didn’t have much, just a small backpack of clothes. But he did bring a couple of essential items: his grandfather’s tackle box and fishing rod.
Mercy Home gave Anthony the network of support he needed, but he kept his head down and kept to himself. Anthony’s therapist, an avid fisherman himself, even offered to take him fishing when he was ready, but Anthony always shook his head ‘no.’
Months passed, and slowly Anthony’s sadness and depression evaporated. He started to participate in more group activities. He began opening up in family therapy with his mother, who is making strides in her own treatment. Then, one day Anthony told his therapist he was ready to go fishing. He even suggested going to his grandfather’s favorite fishing hole.
On the drive to the river, Anthony shared stories about his grandfather, like how he and Anthony found their fishing rods at a garage sale and how one time his grandfather caught a 15-pound catfish. Anthony told his therapist it felt good to talk about his grandfather and keep his memory alive.
Now, whenever they can, Anthony and his therapist go fishing. It’s become their special thing, where sometimes they talk about complicated emotions or family issues. Sometimes they say nothing at all and just enjoy the silence.
Thanks to the love and support of good friends like you, these moments of grace and peace are made possible for children like Anthony who have experienced far too much turbulence in their young lives. We are so grateful for your generosity, as we witness its healing power every day at Mercy Home.
Please note: Because we care deeply about protecting our children’s privacy, the names and certain identifying details in this story have been changed.