Children’s brains are little learning machines. They learn from what we say and do, and what we don’t say and do. We must be intentional about what we teach.
I heard a story recently about a young mother whose daughter came home from school with a reusable grocery bag. The class was collecting food for the local food pantry and the girl was asked to bring items back to school in the bag. Mom watched as her little girl went into the cupboards and began filling the bag. When she was done, her mom sat down with her to look at her choices.
Canned green beans, the off-brand macaroni and cheese (not the good Kraft stuff), cream of potato soup, and cream of celery soup. When Mom asked her daughter why she had chosen those things, the girl said, “Because I don’t like any of this stuff. They can have it.”
The mom’s eyes filled with tears and she felt like she’d been kicked in the stomach. Why? Because as a young child she and her own mother had been homeless and very hungry. At one point they had lived on potatoes and ketchup for a month. It wasn’t until an elderly couple learned of their situation, and invited them to share their meals, and then helped her mother find a job and provided babysitting so she could keep the job, that she had ever felt “full.” The couple had not shared their castoffs, but rather their very best, with her and her mother.
This mom had never shared those stories with her own daughter. For whatever reason, she protected her child from the truth of her own childhood hunger. She hadn’t told her about the neighbors who had shared their best. This mom had never told her daughter her life lessons about the real meaning of empathy and true sharing. The little girl didn’t know because she hadn’t been taught.
The kids who come to the Ranch have learned about abuse and neglect and violence because they have seen it and lived it. They don’t know about the good in this world. We must be intentional in teaching them about compassion and caring and kindness. They can learn trust and confidence and integrity.
And then they heal.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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