There has been some confusion during the COVID-19 pandemic about whether Joy Ranch has remained open or not. In short, we are open. We have no choice. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that we don’t want to be here, it’s just that we literally have no choice. We have kids who have nowhere else to go. That is why Joy Ranch exists.
We have kids who have nowhere else to go. That is why Joy Ranch exists.
There has also always been, in my experience, some confusion about what we do here at Joy Ranch. I’m going to try and explain it using a story I read online (here is a highly condensed version):
In 1996, John Scolinos spoke at the 52nd annual ABCA’s convention. He was 78 years old and had coached college baseball for 14 seasons. During his speech he wore a home plate around his neck, attached to a string. He did not acknowledge the plate until the end of his speech and when he did, he asked the audience, “How wide is home plate?”
“Seventeen inches,” came the answer.
“You’re right,” Scolinos replied. “But what about Little League? How wide is home plate then? What about when Babe Ruth played? How wide is it in high school baseball, college baseball, and the minor leagues?”
The answer, every time – is seventeen inches. No matter where or when; home plate is seventeen inches wide.
“But what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches? What they don’t do is this: ‘Ah, that’s okay. If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target, we’ll make it eighteen or nineteen. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it, but if you can’t hit that, we’ll make it twenty-five inches.’”
Pause. “Coaches… What do we do when the best player shows up late? Or, when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable, or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?”
Of course, the answer is a resounding no.
The next question is what does this have to do with Joy Ranch? We’re not a baseball team.
The answer to THAT question is this – we are a team. A family. The family I have today may not be the same family I have next month or next year. I may have more kids, fewer kids, older kids, etc. but while those kids are on this campus, in this cottage, they are mine. From the second they walk through the door and for as long as they wish it to continue, I will treat them as though I birthed them.
We are a team. A family.
That means I hug them. I give consequences, when necessary. I cry with them. I advocate for them. I teach them. I correct them. I love them. I cheer, applaud, and encourage them. And I am, as far as it depends on me, responsible for what they learn and know while at Joy Ranch. I will answer for what I said, taught, and did or did not do, just like their biological moms and dads or legal guardians would.
We do not strive to replace their families, nor do we wish to. We are their “Joy Ranch family”. What we are not is babysitters, camp counselors, or “the fun aunt and uncle” you stay with while mom and dad go on vacation.
Think of it this way. What we do may look different than what you do for many reasons (legalities, size of the family, etc.) – and one of those reasons is trauma. If you consider each of our kids a baby bird who comes with broken wings – many having been through unimaginable hardship – the obvious place to start is with the bandaging and healing of those wings. But, once those wings have mended, we do not say, “Oh, now you can go do whatever you want until your family is able to take care of you again.” Nor do we say, “Okay, you aren’t going to need to fly, we’ll take care of everything from here.” We do not say, “Learn to fly if you want to, but you don’t have to.” Neither will we say, “Do as you please, we’re only a holding place for you.” Nor do we say, “If you do happen to learn how to fly, don’t stray too far from the nest – don’t go too high or too far!!”
We DO give them the opportunity to be kids. We DO give them a routine, a safe place, food to eat, clothes, and a place to sleep. We DO give them experiences. We DO hold them accountable. We DO give opportunities. We DO teach them to fly.
We provide a safe place, a routine, experiences and opportunity . . .
What that looks like at Joy Ranch is what it looks like at your house. While our population may change, the love and expectations do not. And just like your house, ours did not shut down just because most everything else did.
We do not widen the plate by giving our children whatever they want and letting them do as they please simply because things have been hard. We do take that into account, we love on them, pray with them, and do what needs to be done in order to get them whole and healthy. And, we pray that they will come to think of us as one of their “home plates,” but we do. not. widen. the. plate.
Human nature dictates we repeat what we do not repair; what we leave broken, another will have to fix. At Joy Ranch, we strive toreach, rather than wait until we must rescue.
Who the following quote should be attributed to is much debated, but its truth is not:
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children; one of these is roots, the other is wings.”
So, let us train our children to soar, while giving them the skills they will need to remain steadfast – regardless of what life throws at them.
Anchors and Eagles.
So, God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. ~ Hebrews 6:18-19 NLT
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31 NLT