One day last summer I was reading a book and came across a line that spoke to me. In her book, "The Tenth Island," Diana Marcum wrote, "It had been a tumultuous week, and it occurred to me that in all levels of crisis, it is a good idea to lie down outside and look up."
I wasn't having a crisis--in fact, I was sitting in silence reading a memoir about a world traveler. In my world, that is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. But, I thought lying down outside and looking up was a good idea, so I headed outside, found a cushy green spot in the middle of our backyard and lay down. (I have no cushy green spots in my yard now—it’s all snow and will be that way for months!)
I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. Then, I looked up and saw a parachute against the backdrop of the clear blue sky. A parachute floating softly to the ground from high above! Then I saw another, and another, and yet another!
"Wow! They are all over," I thought. "Are they having a skydiving convention?"
One appeared to be landing in the golf course, and then another looked like it was going to land in my yard. And then, "Whoa! That one is going to land on top of me," I thought.
Until a bird flew by.
Instantly, the bird gave me the proper perspective. The people in parachutes floating softly out of the sky became fluffs of cotton from a nearby cottonwood tree.
When I quit laughing and feeling silly, I started to realize that that experience could teach me a powerful lesson about PERSPECTIVE.
Perspective is important in so many things, including how we see kids at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. From a distance, they can look like bratty, unruly teenagers--old enough to know better than to act that way, and in need of some stricter parenting. But then you hear bits and pieces of their stories, and it's just like that bird flying past. You gain a different perspective. You see their "inappropriate" behavior as a survival tool. They push you away with their behaviors and ugly words, because then you don't have the power to abandon them or hurt them--which is what every other adult in their life has done.
Ranch kids come to us with trauma-filled life stories. Even those with wonderful parents who have done everything in their power to nurture them and give them a good life, have lived through trauma. Some have been bullied, some have uncontrollable anxiety or suicidal thoughts, and some have parts of their brains that trick them into believing they are unlovable and unworthy. Others have been abused, abandoned, neglected, moved from place to place countless times, or otherwise traumatized.
When you see our kids from the perspective of what happened to them, you see completely different children. You see glimpses of vulnerability, glimpses of beauty, glimpses of incredible strength and courage.
The minute children walk through our doors, we start looking for those glimpses of brilliance. We discover their strengths, one tiny strength at a time.
It's difficult work because they don't make it easy. But each and every day, even the days when we just want to run away, we come back to the assurance that every one of our children is a child of God. Every one of our children is wonderfully made and designed by God. Every single one is pleasing to God, and has been adopted into God's family.
That's the power of perspective. And it all started with a bird.
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Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a Christian residential treatment and educational center for children and their families. We help the most troubled, complicated, and amazing kids by providing best-in-class psychiatric therapy and trauma-informed care, where we look kids in the eye, walk with them, and help them become their best selves.