I love Christmas trees. I think they are a bold proclamation that we are celebrating the birth of our Lord. I think of them as a really big Birthday candle! You just can’t hide the fact that you’re celebrating Jesus' birth when you have a 4 or 6 or 8-foot reminder in the middle of your house.
On our Ranch campuses, we put up many Christmas trees. Our Thrift Stores collect artificial trees that are donated, and we use them in our nutrition centers, our schools, outside our buildings, in classrooms, offices, chapels, and hallways. Sometimes we make huge paper Christmas trees and hang them on the walls in the kids' living areas, instead of taking up floor space! Each child has the opportunity to help decorate, or attend a tree lighting, or simply enjoy a Christmas tree.
This morning, I was visiting with Pat, one of our food service stars, about the weekend. He told me that he had worked the weekend, and he did a little extra tidying up.
Toby, one of the newer boys on campus, really struggles with dysregulation. He likes to be in motion and sometimes damages things around him with his constant activity. Toby has multiple emotional and psychiatric issues that cause him to be particularly unsettled in group situations. So, at least for the time being, Toby comes to meals early with staff and leaves before the other children come. That way, he can get comfortable with the setting before others are added into the mix.
This weekend, while Toby was in the nutrition center, he tipped over all six of the Christmas trees. He didn’t harm anyone, and he didn't really damage the trees. He just had a challenging few minutes and tipped them over. Toby then finished lunch, and staff took him back to the living area. The trees lay on the floor, as standing them up with Toby still there was a lose-lose proposition.
After Toby left, Pat left the kitchen and stood up each of the trees. He adjusted the bent wire branches and reset the lights. All were in place when the other kids came to lunch.
“I know the kids love the trees. This is the best job I’ve ever had,” Pat told me. “These kids just want to be seen and heard and cared about. I didn’t want them to be worried by messed-up Christmas trees.”
Without flurry or fuss, Pat lived the meaning of Christmas. He showed compassion for Toby and the other children. He reached out and did what he could to set a small part of their world right.
That’s why Jesus came, right? To teach us to show love to each other in any way we can.
Like standing up a fallen Christmas tree.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Please keep Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch kids and staff, like Pat, in your prayers.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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