As Executive Director at Bright Side, one of the many aspects of my job is to speak with families who are interested in their child coming to the ranch. It is a privilege to hear their stories and help them walk through what their time at the ranch might be like. It's also incredibly heartbreaking to know the pain that so many children have experienced at such young ages.
Recently, I had a phone call with a grandmother who was very concerned for her granddaughter. The nine-year-old girl has experienced a broken home and toxic relationships, so much so that she has been self-harming and even considered suicide. The grandmother, out of a deep concern and love for the sweet young girl, wants her to have a safe place to be. She wants her to experience a positive environment where love and joy can surround her instead of despair, heartache, and verbal abuse.
As I listened to the story of this 9-year-old unfold, I kept thinking about my own young daughter at home, who is almost 9 herself. And the main thought that kept circling through my mind is that this other girl is just that – a little girl. She's just a little girl who wants a place that's safe and loving where she can brush a horse and breathe in fresh air. A place where someone listens and can help her see what a treasure she truly is. A place where she can have space to think and be herself and find hope.
In running a nonprofit, it's sometimes easy to have a divided attention that gets caught up in how many children were coming to the ranch this year, how many Sessions and Round Ups we held, how many volunteers or mentors come out or are in training, how many board members we’re adding to the team, and how our funding needs are getting met each month. But, after a phone call like that I am fully reminded that this is what Bright Side is all about. It's about being there for that one child who has nowhere else to go and feels alone. It's about reminding her she was created in the image of God and that she is not a mistake. It’s about telling her there is a purpose and a plan for her life and that there is hope.
In the process of the conversation with this grandmother, I gently reminded her that Bright Side is a faith-based organization. I told her that while we do not push religion down a child's throat, we do point out that ultimate hope is found in Jesus. And she said "that's OK. I'm a seventh day Adventist, and while we may not agree on some things, we can certainly agree that there is hope in Jesus. And that's what I want my granddaughter to know - that there is hope."
And that’s what really matters: one child connecting with one mentor and one horse and discovering there is hope. Hope that there is more than what she has experienced. Hope that something good is ahead and not all of life is filled with pain. Hope that she does not walk this rough path alone. Hope that there is One who sees her, knows her, hears her and cares for her. One who brings light to the darkness and covers her with his wings.