He just about knocked me over.
I was going into the front door of our school on our Bismarck Campus and struggling to get my keys organized when a strong, athletic 15-year-old body slammed into my side and wrapped me in a bear hug. In high heels and a heavy winter coat, I almost lost my balance, much less my breath.
I looked up into the face of Jeremy*, a boy who had been at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch for almost a year. He was grinning from ear to ear!
“I am so glad to see you, Joy! Did you know I am a day student now? I finished treatment and feel good. It is harder to be at home, but I get to come here for the rest of the school year. How’s Sydney?” he said, all in one breath.
“Well hello,” I answered. “Yes, I heard you were a day student and I am so proud of you. It is harder at home, but you are strong now and you will do well. Sydney [the Ranch therapy dog I own] is wonderful, and cranky that she didn’t come to work today.”
He looked so good and smiled so broadly. He filled my heart.
Thursday of that same week, I walked into one of our Thrift Stores to meet some new Ranchers. As I looked at the gentleman running the till, recognition hit me. I walked up to the counter, and when he finished with his customer he wrapped me in a big hug.
“I’m doing good, Joy. I’m a Team Lead. I finished school. I pay rent. I want to be a store manager.”
“You look so good! I am so proud of you.”
This young man had been in our care several years ago, had done so well, moved in with family members, graduated high school, started a career in retail, and now was in management at a Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Store.
I was not a direct part of these young men’s healing. The professionals of all disciplines at the Ranch had helped them, believed in them, encouraged them, prayed for them, and saw their potential.
I got hugged not because of anything I did, but because of what I represented. I represent your support and compassion. I represent all the professionals who refused to give up on them. I represent people who show understanding and kindness. I represent a place of hope, a place grounded in His word.
It was great to be hugged. Twice in one week. I love my job.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
*Name changed to protect confidentiality
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