So much in life is about familiarity and context, isn't it? When we grow up around music, we expect music to be part of our lives. When we grow up around books, we think learning and curiosity are the norm. When we grow up with pets, we feel comfort and respect for animal "friends." You get the idea.
One of the children who recently came to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch told our Psychiatrist/Medical Director, "I'm nervous because everyone is smiling, and people seem happy here."
I have pondered the fact that happy, smiling people made this child nervous. In the life this child has lived, "happy" people were, at best, a rarity. At worst, they were sinister. This child, like almost all abused and neglected kids, is always on guard for the signs that may mean he is about to become a target.
For most of our kids, people who are angry or crabby are a threat – that's what came before they were abused. But this young man's world is inside out – seeing people excited and engaged means bad things are going to happen. When people are angry and crabby, well, at least then he knows they will leave him alone.
From the outside, the child's responses seem odd and out of sync. He lashes out at teachers who try to offer compassion. He feels a gravitational pull to people who seem angry or depressed. All because of the context and familiarity of the environment called "home."
So, at the Ranch we will start slow. We will learn the best way to approach this child. We will teach that not all smiles lead to pain. We will work, so hard, to be examples of what honest kindness looks like. We will provide the best treatment we can to reverse the confused signaling this child has been taught. We will pray.
And when this child smiles in happiness, we will celebrate.
Please pray for our staff and children.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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