It’s Friday afternoon, and I am in my office replaying the time I spent with the surprise visitor who stopped by this morning.
About 9 a.m. I heard Karen, one of the women I work with, greeting someone at her office door. Karen is a sincerely kind person who is always gracious to everyone, but I could hear something special in her voice. I eavesdropped a little, and it was soon evident she was talking to a past resident. “Are you working now?” “So, you have your own apartment?” “You look really good!”
It’s always a special moment when past residents come by. It is hard to know how life has gone for kids when they leave our care. When one comes back, it kind of “closes the loop” and gives us a chance to see the results of our work and God’s love.
A couple minutes later, Cliff appeared in the doorway of my office. He is now 21 years old, tall, thin, well-groomed, his clothes are clean, and he still has a lopsided grin. He is handsome.
Cliff spent a long time at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. The abuse he went through is gut-wrenching, and he was also the protector of his younger siblings—taking the abuse directed at them as his own. He is on the autism spectrum, and his speech is a little stilted. He is very smart. We visited a bit, but I sensed he wanted to say more, so I asked if he wanted to sit down.
“Yeah,” he answered and lowered himself into a chair.
I just waited. He had something to say, and it was my job to be still.
“Joy, do you remember the card game I taught you?”
“I remember you teaching me, but I don’t remember the game. I know you beat me all the time. I feel like there is something you want to ask. Do you need help with something?”
“Yes. I have a girlfriend, but it isn’t going well. I need to talk it through and figure out how to go forward. I need to find a place to live. I used to see a counselor at the Ranch, but I don’t know if I have insurance and I came back here because this is where I really got help. This is a safe place.”
I could feel my heart swell up in my chest. My first thought was, “He should have a family to lean on!” My second thought was, “He can always lean on us.”
We walked across the parking lot to our outpatient mental health clinic where one of our folks helped him sort out his insurance questions. Then, in a “God-wink” moment, his old counselor had an opening, and Cliff walked right into the office to talk and be heard and to plan. The counselor reached out to me later and said, “We got him all sorted out!”
Because of you and your prayers, we are here for Cliff and all the children who walk through our doors. Thank you.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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