My parents were products of the Great Depression. The real one, in the 1930s. The recession of the 1980s was bad, but a pretender compared to what people endured before. Many in the United States simply had nothing. Nothing.
The result was that people learned to scrimp and save and reuse and do, what we now call, "recycle." As a daughter of this generation, I grew up on wiping down, drying, and folding aluminum foil for re-use. Every leftover found a new recipe. Shoes were purchased a size or two too big so we would grow into them, and not need new shoes for a year or so. Hand-me-downs were all I wore until I grew bigger than my older sisters. Then I sewed a lot of my own clothes.
Don't get me wrong. While we weren't wealthy, we weren't poverty-stricken. But, my parents had experience having nothing, so they conserved and recycled everything they could.
Each day at the Ranch, I am copied on dozens of notifications from direct care staff as they notify each other, their supervisors, and therapists about concerns or conversations with the children we serve. This morning I received one that reminded me so much of my parents, and made it so clear what kids at the Ranch have experienced.
This message came from Tal Pollert, the remarkable young man who works as the Wellness Coordinator on our Bismarck campus. Tal has organized a running group of our kids to prepare for a 10K event. The kids who participate are so amazed to find that they can accomplish such a big goal...and it gives them one more reason to believe in themselves. Anyway, Tal sent the message to direct care staff about "R" and his new running shoes.
"R has begun forming blisters on the inside of both feet," Tal wrote. "I noticed he was wearing an old pair of shoes instead of his running shoes. R said he did not want to make his new running shoes stink. I told him we have odor-eaters powder in the cottage. R said you can add too much powder and he is worried the powder will ruin his shoes. R should be wearing his running shoes to running group and I have told him I will apply the foot powder to his shoes with him after running group if that is an issue."
I think you probably already made the leap as you read about R and his new shoes. He has experienced simply having nothing. Nothing. Having new shoes is too precious for him to grasp. He wants to conserve and reserve them, because he has learned that life is unpredictable, and what you have today can be taken away tomorrow. He's not going to let that happen to those shoes.
A very wise counselor told me that when you work with children, remember every behavior serves a purpose. By protecting his shoes, R is making sure he never has "nothing" again.
Please pray for R, Tal, and all our kids and staff.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
P.S. You can help a child like R heal and find hope, and have his very own pair of new shoes. Donate here to provide hope and healing for the most troubled, complicated and amazing children.