My favorite poetry memory is of the four or five long poems my dad liked to recite. He had memorized them in grade school and remembered them well into his mature years. I, too, memorized poems in school, but they didn’t stick with me the way Dad’s did for him. I have never been very good at appreciating poetry. I have tried to be moved by it, because that seems like a very grown-up, cultured thing to do. But even after purchasing and reading poetry books, I miss the depth of the poems.
Until I read the poetry written by our Ranch kids. Their use of language and symbolism and rhythms to tell their stories does move me. It heartens me that these young folks, who have been so burdened and endured so much, find solace in putting structure to the stories of their trauma.
One of my favorite poets is a young, dark-eyed teenage boy on our Minot Campus. He is a handsome child, with a beautiful, wavy halo of hair and a permanently somber expression. When I met him and shook his hand, my first impression was that this child was “walled up.” He didn’t like eye contact, he didn’t smile, he spoke quietly and succinctly. He was just fine sitting in silence.
Then I went to our Campus Talent Show. This quiet, reserved boy performed an original rap song. Good rap music is really good poetry, and this was. (I have to set aside any bias about “nasty” rap music … now there is even Christian rap!) In his own words, from memory and in his own time, he shared his feelings, his hurts, and his hopes, in a cadence and style that was his alone. In his words, the children and staff heard not only his story, but parts of their own. At the end, he received a standing ovation.
After that experience, I pondered the songs I love and realized that their lyrics are true poetry. The lyrics to Amazing Grace are precious to me. I sang them at my dad’s funeral, albeit not all that well. They certainly speak to life’s struggles, as did the young boy’s rap song.
Maybe I do love poetry…
Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come,
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
Songwriters: John Newton / Brian Byrne
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
Hope is a very powerful thing. For kids at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, hope can mean the difference between successful treatment and giving up on life. You can provide hope for our kids. Your message will let a boy or girl know that someone cares and wants them to succeed. It's easy to do and takes just a few minutes! Send a message of hope to a child at the Ranch by clicking on the link above.
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