It's so inspiring to hear stories of people who have a purpose in life. One of these purpose-driven lives involves giving young boys a new lease on life. That is what "Lives Under Construction Boys' Ranch" does. It's an investment in life and I am grateful to have a part in it. The camp exists through donations - no government subsidies or anything like that. They are independent and self-sustaining. They prove it can be done, and the best part is their goal. They take boys who are headed for prison and they turn their lives around.
In their most recent newsletter, the camp organizers tell the story of "Nathan." Nathan had been to counselors and specific programs to help him out. Nothing worked. Whenever he was asked to do something to help himself or improve his life, he would say "I can't do that" or "I won't do that." Instead of arguing with him and trying to force the issue, whoever his instructor or counselor at the Ranch was would say "I'll help you!" In this way, they helped Nathan learn to do things and be responsible. He learned to dig trenches and post holes, pull weeds, clean animal pens, chop wood and more. All of these physical responsibilities made him stronger, physically and mentally. He learned good work habits and gained self-confidence. His strength and abilities began being noticed by others on the Ranch, and they began to ask for him by name. This kind of praise does wonders for a boy's self image and his self respect. We can all learn from the lessons taught at the Boys' Ranch.
I'd like to give you a idea of Nathan's background before he came to the Ranch. In the school he attended, the teachers and administrators just passed him along through the grades, even though he didn't deserve to pass. So although he was moving up, he didn't know the material and struggled. It affected him negatively in several ways, but all that changed at the Ranch. Teachers didn't just pass him along there; they stayed with him, making sure that he understood the material. They would even work with Nathan late into the night to ensure he didn't fall behind. His attention span grew. He began to learn, and that added to his self confidence, which in turn helped him be even more determined to succeed. He changed his attitude and that changed his life. Maybe there are young boys and teachers out there who can find encouragement through Nathan's story.
In one year, Nathan was able to recover lost credits and complete the equivalent of two years of classwork. That's right! In one year, he got through two grades! This story should inspire students and teachers. I forgot to mention that Nathan also had learning disabilities. And yet despite that, and despite all the negative experiences he had at school in the past, he succeeded.
Of course, it wasn't easy. When Nathan first came to the Ranch, he was rough around the edges. He was angry, belligerent, disrespectful and bitter. But the people around him at the Ranch didn't give up on him. They realized that inside of him was a tender heart, but fear and self-doubt had kept it buried. Also, Nathan had a need to control others and his environment.
After resistance, Nathan figured out that giving up control would be best for him. And he found out that going through frustrations develops patience. He turned to the Bible to help him find peace in his life. All of us have choices, and Nathan decided to make some different ones.
Let me tell you how the boys at the Boys' Ranch and their neighbors help each other. The neighbors give the boys time, talents, possessions, prayer and emotional support.
In return, the boys and staff at the Ranch have helped the neighbors and community members, too. They have helped motorists with flat tires and vehicle trouble, they have helped people with moving, they have assisted with recovery efforts after fires, and done a variety of other things to lend a hand to neighbors in need. They have even helped local farmers haul in bales of hay.
When ministries have fundraisers and crowds leave messes at town events, the boys help clean up. After windstorms, they cleaned up debris and planted new trees.
For 30 years, the boys at the Ranch have helped the elderly with moving, yard work, repairs, etc. All of this is done for the boys' benefit, too. They get to experience the good feeling that comes with helping people - not for compensation, not for pay, but because it's the right thing to do. Carrying other people's loads actually lightens our own. The lessons these boys learn will stay with them forever. They will be a blessing to others over and over again.
I hope this column will be read in classes and at school. Good deeds are contagious, and programs like this should be copied!
Now, here's something that happened to me. We have to throw our trash and garbage into the landlord's dumpster on Main Street. Therefore, I walk through the White Inn parking lot often. A young girl came over and offered to help me. I thanked her and tried to teach her something. I have noticed that people who are very helpful are often independent and don't allow other people to have that great feeling. I told that girl I could have managed, but I didn't want to deny her that wonderful feeling of helping an old woman out. We both felt good!
Don't deny yourself or others those wonderful feelings. They are so satisfying!
Have a great life!
P.S. If you would like to donate to "Lives Under Construction Boys' Ranch," their address is 296 Boys' Ranch Road, Lampe, Mo. 65681. You can send a check to help the boys change their lives. I love to give to people who are helping themselves and others.