The first 7 months of this service year have been a whirlwind to say the least. From playing sports, hiking, caving, board games, and a gingerbread house building contest, I am confident I’ve lived up to the title of Recreation Coordinator. I rekindled my love for volunteering the summer before senior year of college and could not have pictured ending up where I am right now.
I’ve never been described as ‘strictly professional’ and soon after arriving at La Salle School I realized the last thing these boys needed was another adult telling them what they can’t do. I often relish sharing with people that I plan recreational activities (although I phrase it as ‘I get to be the fun guy on campus!’).
Not every aspect of La Salle is fun and games, the realizations set in quickly when I arrived that these boys are in need of healing. Lasallians have been known to say ‘the last, the least, and the lost.’ Those words hit me immediately and leave me grateful for my own upbringing. These boys are prime examples of that ministry. Finding out the reasons these boys are at La Salle always breaks my heart, but I also view it as the opportunity for them to right the wrongs and for us to walk with them as they become responsible young men. The simplest yet most effective things I can offer them are my left and right ears. Before arriving here, these boys were rarely encouraged to do positive things for themselves, so when I ask them about their day while shooting some hoops, I’m often surprised how easily they tell me how they feel.
The most profound moment by far has been the Confirmation of one of our boys. This boy in particular was one I had grown close with since the day I first arrived, and I know him well. When he was asked by Rich Ward, the campus minister, who his sponsor was going to be, he whipped around and said, ‘Hey Mr. B, wanna be my sponsor?’ with a certain nonchalance that made me laugh before accepting his offer with sincere gratitude. I know he might not realize the gravity of that request, but one day I like to think he will. We continually grow in our relationship and that added responsibility has made me even more keen on helping this young man heal, change his future, and adopt the mission of St. La Salle.
It’s those positive interactions that make this service year worth it. Sure, the ski trips and dodgeball games have been a blast (both for the boys and myself) but it’s the fact that they strengthen our relationship that’s truly amazing. It’s always gratifying to see a timid group in the van en route to an activity, and then have that dynamic completely change after the experience. Providing opportunities they might otherwise never have the chance to partake in gives them memories that go beyond the parking lot of La Salle.
Pat Blythe, 12-13, La Salle School, Albany, NY