Gathering for a Thanksgiving meal, while sharing reasons to be thankful, is the oldest tradition at the Youth Ranch, dating back to a simple picnic in 1977 when volunteers gathered under an oak tree on the undeveloped land. To this day, we repeat the ritual faithfully. We are glad we have a holiday focused on the good things God has done.
There is something about the expression of gratitude that is healing. At the annual banquet, opportunity is given for children to name something for which they are grateful, and their answers are often moving . . . a first turkey dinner, love, a favorite houseparent, God in their lives, or a warm house to live in. Being thankful can push away bitterness and lift a child from a depressed state to feeling part of a cycle of renewal.
It’s a beautiful sight to see children who were once hungry with a full plate of food, and to share the experience of building a new tradition of having enough. Veteran staff member Carol Priour recalls, “I will never forget when one of our Youth Ranch children told me that she always slept with a can of corn under her pillow – security against those years when she and her brothers and sisters went to bed with empty stomachs.”
Thanksgiving is a favorite event at HCYR. Expressions of gratitude bring out the best in everyone, and the family gathering around traditional foods is a time of bonding. After dinner, we listen to songs and poems, and watch skits – all performed by the children.