A guest blog from Matheus Marlisson Matos
Matheus is from Brazil and has been serving as an Intern at the church I attend. He recently posted the following on Facebook, which was his personal statement when applying for a university place in America. I found it so inspirational, I asked his permission to post it here.
“Does it hurt if you get shot?” I remember asking my aunt this question, following the shooting massacre that I witnessed in my street when I was eight years old. Three people were shot because of their involvement with drugs and crime. This was to be only the first of many killings that I would see during my life as a resident of a slum area. I was scared and pensive. Even though I was young and innocent, I began to think then about the type of life that I wanted for myself. I did not want to have the same destiny that many young lads in my neighborhood had. I did not want to die without having the chance of being someone different. I decided that I would not let anybody pull the trigger of hopelessness with me in its sight, and kill my dreams; dreams that were barely formed. I decided I would do something to change the reality of life where I lived. I would be a soldier fighting for hope in the midst of a war of sorrow.
I grew up in one of the most marginalized slums in my city where my father, a young man, was a drug dealer and died when he was only twenty seven years old due to a cocaine overdose. I was only one year old. My mother was also very young and immature. My maternal grandparents therefore raised me, both already in their old-age and retired from a long working life. They taught me I could live a life that mattered but it would depend on the decisions I made as a young man.
Inspired by my teachers in the elementary school, I realized that education was the only way out of my circumstances. Education was a way of making my dreams reality. The desire to bring about change for myself and for others has always pushed me forward. I knew that it would be a major challenge, as no one in my family has been to the university or even has finished high school. In order to get into a university and be competitive enough, I studied more than eight hours a day after school. Since my family did not have the financial means to pay for my education, I studied using second-hand textbooks that I obtained for free from the donated books box at my school.
C.S. Lewis once said that “hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny”. With an unrelenting devotion to the things I want to see happen, I have dedicated myself to my beliefs and I have worked hard to live my dreams. There need not be a limit to the size of our dreams. I have achieved wonderful things by pursuing an education and I have been to places I have never imagined I would go to – for example, representing Brazil as a Youth Ambassador to the United States in 2014.
I was recently accepted for one of the most prestigious universities in my country – an achievement that makes tears run down from my eyes when I think of the struggles I faced to get to this point. My biggest dream right now is to use my education to contribute to the life of others. There is a broken world outside that needs changing and only courageous people are able to help it become a better place. Education is the key to transforming lives. It has transformed mine and I strongly believe it will transform others.
I believe in a future where dreams will not be hampered or destroyed by fear, hopelessness and lack of opportunity; a future in which young people have the courage to dream beyond the social reality in which they find themselves and are not limited by their backgrounds.
The war of sorrow in my area is fought on many fronts. It is difficult to go against the tide, against what is considered ‘normal’ and to make people see that in the midst of lack of choices and opportunities, there is still hope and still a way. I am still fighting to bring change. It is a continuous war, long and hard, but one in which I will carry on looking ahead at my goal because I know that the future I want for tomorrow depends on the steps I take today.
Please, do not pull the trigger without giving me a chance! – Matheus Marlisson Matos.