Updated: May 31, 2020
I've known Mario for a lot of years. Even though there were ninety or so guys at the boys' home where I initially worked (and those faces tend to blur together), I remember Mario. The walls around his bunk bed were covered in futbol (soccer) clippings that he'd taped up. He knew everything about every team you could name.
When we opened the house, Mario used to come hang out with us. He'd dropped out of school in Grade 8 and was working and living with his family which, to be honest, wasn't a great environment. His dad was an alcoholic and Mario felt it was his responsibility to protect his mom and sisters from him. We encouraged him that when he felt it was time, our door was open and we'd love for him to be able to study with us.
After a number of years, eventually that time came, and Mario decided he was ready to go back
and finish high school. He wanted to go on to university. I'm not completely sure what happened, but at some point he realized that his family didn't actually care that much what happened to him and it was time to move on.
We got Mario settled into the house and registered in a high school (where he would be able to complete two school years in one). We bought him his pants and shirt for the school's uniform and all the school supplies he needed. He left bright and early one Monday, for his first day of classes.
And then we didn't see him for three months. We discovered later that it was just too much for him to face, going back to school after being out for almost ten years. He just went home and back to the life he'd led before.
Eventually, he showed up at the house again and we talked about what had happened. We encouraged him that we would be more supportive now that we knew how he felt and that it would all be okay.
He agreed and we got him all set up again, and this time we took him to the school and made sure he was comfortable and settled in.
I think he managed a week before he dropped out again. It was just too overwhelming for him. Again he went back to live with his family and his old job at a lumberyard. This time though, we found him and encouraged him to come back to the house and we'd figure it all out. Around that same time, the Saskatoon Christian School team arrived to serve with us, and one of the teachers who had built a strong relationship with Mario, talked to him about his future and what he could accomplish.
That seemed to be what Mario needed and he talked with us about returning to classes. We told him that the third time was it and if he wasn't serious this time, he would lose his opportunity to study at the house.
Mario agreed and has never looked back. On December 7, I had the pleasure of walking with Mario, as his dad, and being the first to shake his hand and congratulate him on receiving his high school
Now he plans to go to journalism school to fulfill his dream of being a sports reporter and writing about the sport his loves so much.
It's been amazing to see Mario grow and expand his horizons and experience a bit more of the abundant life that God promises us!