A few weeks ago I was going through our cafeteria line for lunch on campus when there was a commotion at the other end of the dining center. Something had agitated one of our children, a young boy, and he threw his lunch tray on the floor. It hit with such force that the unbreakable plastic dish shattered and, of course, milk flew everywhere. Staff quickly helped the young man leave the environment and helped him use some of his coping and calming skills. In a few minutes, he was able to re-set his emotions and finish lunch.
The event itself was short-lived, and I’ve seen more prolonged outbursts in public school lunchrooms. Kids get angry and don’t know how to express it. But, the important part was what happened next.
There were two other boys at the table. One is pretty reserved. Literally within seconds, the VP of Clinical Services was sitting at his side. She listened while he talked about what he had seen, what he had felt, and then went on to what he was proud of having done that day and what he was planning for the afternoon. He re-focused and the event became a non-event.
The other boy got up from the table and started helping staff clean up the floor and the splattered milk. He wasn’t asked, he just did. As he was helping, he said, “That’s just Joey*. He gets mad. He’ll be OK.” No shame, no fear, no judgment--just simple acceptance of each of us, including Joey, as a work in progress.
What about the rest of the kids in the room? They looked up, noticed, and then went back to their conversations and food. Joey had a rough few minutes. Now, on with the day.
The point is, I believe Joey will continue to get better. He will probably always be quick to anger. But, he will learn to recognize as it is happening and step-in to his coping skills on his own. He has the opportunity to learn that because when he has a bad day, no one gives up on him. Not the Ranch staff, not his peers, and certainly not God. We will all accept “Joey” for who he is. We will meet him where he is at. And, over time, we will help him become his best self.
In His love,
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.