What did you want to be when you were growing up? When I was growing up there were two things I wanted to be; either the first female quarterback in the NFL or a stay-at-home-mama. I guess that brings new meaning to the phrase “Go big or go home!” doesn’t it! I pretty much quit growing in the 5th grade and I had no choice but to leave my glory days on the playground. As I got older my dream of being a stay-at-home-mama was threatened by the notion that I needed to get a “real job”. So, when I started college I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to study. I thought I might want to teach children with special needs, so I volunteered in a classroom for a year. I really enjoyed it and it’s still one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. After that year though, I realized how great the emotional investment in each child is, and how heartbreaking it can be. I didn’t feel like I could be that strong year after year. Now, almost ten years later, I’m living my dream of being a stay-at-home-mama and wouldn’t trade a second of it. But I still think about those kids and smile! So when a woman at church asked if I would be willing to come talk about ranching to her class, the Emotionally Disturbed class, I instantly said that I would love to!
When I arrived at the school I checked in at the office and told them which class I’d come to see. The first response was “Really? Why?” and as I was escorted outside to the portable where their class is held, all I heard about was how awful these kids are, how everyone dreads dealing with them, and how grateful she was that her children were normal. I’m not sure if she was trying to scare me or prepare me. If anything, she made me more determined to encourage these children as much as I could during my visit, because they obviously weren’t the school favorites and they probably knew it. There are six boys in this class and they range in age from 3rd to 5th grade. Mrs. Hicks reminded them of how they were supposed to introduce themselves and what they could and could not say to a lady. As I went around to each desk they looked up with shy smiles, shook my hand, told me their names, what grade they were in and said “It’s nice to meet you.” They gathered around a table and we watched a slideshow of the ranch, the cattle and sheep, branding and shearing, and doggie lambs. We talked about the drought and why we need rain so badly. I explained that we drive around in a feed pickup every other day and drop feed for them to eat, because there is so little grass. I brought some feed to show them and explained that at the end of the day if they’d been on good behavior they could take a piece home with them. This got them excited, but one boy said “If I take that home my mom is gonna think it’s dog poop!” They each got to read an interesting fact to the rest of the class, and you could tell they liked being the teacher for a change! Did you know that a cow can walk up stairs, but can’t walk down? Then they each got to “adopt” one of our horses by picking out a card with the horse’s picture, name, color, age, and a fun fact about the horse. Jonah’s fun fact was that he had big ears, and the boy who picked him hugged the picture and said, “I don’t care if he has big ears, I love him even more!” Then they each got to ask two questions. Most of them used up one question to ask the exact birth date of their horse so they could make a cake! I was there for almost an hour and half and these “awful” children could not have been more attentive, involved, or well behaved! They had shown a lot of interest and sympathy when I explained that doggie lambs were like orphan lambs that couldn’t be cared for by their mother, so I promised that if we had a doggie lamb to care for before school let out for summer that I would come back and bring the lamb.
So last week I returned to the school with a doggie lamb. Mrs. Hicks’ class came out front and the excitement on their faces when they saw that little lamb was priceless! They each took turns petting him, asking questions, and feeding him. Feeding him was definitely their favorite part and they all laughed as they tried to hold the bottle still! If you’ve never fed a lamb before they like to nudge the bottle, just as if they were nursing, and shake it’s tail like a dog. They all loved on him, gave him hugs, and a few of them told him that they were sorry his mom couldn’t take care of him, but that he was going to be okay. They even decided that if it were up to them he would be the new school mascot! When it was time for them to return to class I thanked them for being so well behaved and encouraged them to keep up the good work, because people would notice. As I was leaving another teacher stopped me. I don’t think any of us knew that she had been watching through a window, but she had noticed how good the kids were and how loving they had been with the lamb. She couldn’t believe it. I said, “Sometimes they just need an opportunity to show tenderness, we all do for that matter.” She smiled, and the little lamb and I loaded up in the pickup and headed back to the ranch.
I wrote this blog to fill you in on what we’ve been up to, but also to encourage us all to remember that people are more than what you see on the surface. We don’t know their stories, what they’ve been through, or why they act the way they do. Hurt people hurt people. Look for the good that is in them and do what you can encourage it’s growth. Especially when it comes to children.