by Betty McConnell, Residential Case Manager
Who do you call for help in a time of need- Arnold, Chuck Norris, Superman? Around New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home, we call Opal, once introduced by one of our house dads as someone who does everything around here. And, to say the least, that pretty much describes our girl, Opal.
I’d nearly have to write a novel to cover everything she does, so I’m going to focus on Opal meeting our need to head the 4-H program this summer. She made it sweet and simple -with a bit of blood, sweat, and tears- determined to have the kids learn teamwork and responsibility together. Pulling weeds, unloading feed bags, chasing chickens, nurturing baby kittens, gathering eggs, filling waters, and catching skunks (with cages) were among the many activities that filled their days this summer. Even in the heat of the day, the kids could be heard asking if it was time to go to the barn. The kids were learning that even in hard work there was fun to be had with the right attitude.
One way Opal built the beauty of teamwork was to divide the kids into teams, each responsible for a coop and an area of the barn. Opal encouraged the kids to be diligent in their work, making sure their coops were clean, and their chickens were well taken care of appropriately. Suggesting they make their coops unique; she provided the items requested by the children to help decorate their coops and then, after several weeks, had a visiting volunteer group choose the winner of the best decorated, most well cared for chickens and cleanest coop, along with the most knowledgeable about their chickens. That day was wonderful, with most of the kids cheering one another on to success.
It will be a summer to be remembered. To say it was all fun would be an overstatement, because with growth, there is often loss. In the process of learning to care for their animals, the kids also learned to care about their animals. That is one of the many blessings of having an animal program; kids from hard places learn to care about others and have a safe outlet to show that care. There were a few losses over the summer due to heat and nature where our hurting children deeply expressed grief and heartache. And there was Opal, with one call, to help them through their growth and grief.
Better than any Superman.