Matt Plaska was a member of the 2007-2008 MercyWorks Community and worked with 11 to 13 year-old boys in our Noha Home. These are his thoughts on what it means to be a source of light and hope for the youth at Mercy Home.
George Iles wrote, “Hope is faith holding out its hand in the darkness.” When all else fails, hope is one of the few things that remains and cannot be taken away. Even when we have reached the end of our ropes or stand surrounded by darkness on the edge of a cliff, we can cling to hope as a lifeline. Hope extends ropes we think have ended and provides another solid rock to stand upon.
I now see my work with the Noha Home youth as a way to extend hope into the lives of these boys. As a youth care worker, I oversee the daily activities of these youth from the time they return from school until they go to bed. I am a disciplinarian, role model, tutor, therapist, mediator, and advocate. But for the youth in my care, I am also – perhaps more importantly – a light of hope and a guiding hand.
For these young men who have nowhere else to turn, Mercy Home has become the saving source of hope that they cling to. This simple and intimidating reality can easily be lost amidst the daily chaos within each program, yet I am constantly reminded that I cannot cease to have hope and to instill hope in those around me. This business of hoping, giving hope, and recognizing hope already present in each youth is at the core of my efforts as a youth care worker. Truly, it is hope – in its capacity to inspire positive change and growth – that drives the mission of Mercy Home.
“I‘ve finally found a father figure in my life…and it’s you. You’re like a dad to me.”
It was this lesson that I was powerfully re-taught in a humbling conversation with a youth one evening. This young man is at Mercy Home because of an abusive father and a terminally-ill mother. As we ate dinner in the cafeteria on night, I had asked him about his day. He replied that he was having a great day so far. “And,” he continued, “I realized that I found something that I’ve been looking for for a long time.”
I asked what he had found, expecting a response focused on PlayStation games or some similar concern of the average 13-year-old boy. His answer left me speechless and humbled. “No,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’ve finally found a father figure in my life…and it’s you. You’re like a dad to me.”
That moment crystallized for me what is so important about sharing ourselves with others. Although we have our share of seemingly hopeless days in program, I am still privileged to hold the “hope candle” that is a light for these young men amidst their troubling circumstances.