One of the greatest anxiety-producers and simultaneously greatest sources of joy in this job is speaking to groups about the Ranch. Surprisingly, the anxiety is not about public speaking, but rather about making sure I do justice to the children and the staff and the builders of the Ranch.
Speaking to Bible study groups gives me a chance to tell folks how the Ranch shows Christ's mercy in the world. With lots of coaching from pastor friends and Bible students, I do my best to bring something of merit to the groups.
When I speak to a smaller group, I try to do so without the microphone. I can project my voice pretty well, and I often tell them, "I grew up in a household where my dad had lost much of his hearing in the engine of a naval aircraft carrier in World War II. Everyone in my family can project. I brought a friend home in high school and she said, 'You have the loudest home I've ever been in where no one is mad at each other!'"
I spoke at a church in Arizona recently (before COVID-19 made being with groups in person impossible), and when I was done, a gentleman walked up to me. He was wearing an Iowa State sweatshirt, had a great handshake, and looked me straight in the eye. "What ship was your dad on and how long was he in the Navy?" he asked.
As we visited, I learned he was a Naval pilot who had served in Vietnam. He told me how landing on the carriers forced the shoulder straps on his seat to sear into his shoulders. He learned to put an extra folded t-shirt under the straps to protect himself.
I thanked him for his service, and he asked me more about my Dad's service in the "Pacific Theater." As we visited, I shared how grateful I was that my dad was able to tell his stories. Unlike so many others, my dad was able to share the horrors and the experiences and the celebrations. I was lucky to know what he had gone through, and was eternally grateful to those who served.
This strong, happy, confident gentleman's eyes filled with tears and he couldn't answer me. He nodded, shook my hand, patted my shoulder, nodded again, and walked away. What he had seen, his own stories, not spoken - came through his tears.
Every person we meet has lived a life only they can truly understand. Like the children at the Ranch, some of us can tell our stories, and some cannot. Each of us carries our experiences in our own way. And, when they are too heavy, God carries them for us.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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