After I graduated from High School, I worked at the Utah Boys Ranch every summer for four years. They had a summer program called “Sunshine Solutions”. It was an amazing job. I was a counselor for at-risk kids, many of which had come from broken homes with histories of different types of abuse or neglect. They were kids that were seeking hope and healing. Sunshine Solutions was a non-denominational christian recreational therapy program. It was a great experience. I miss it a lot. I wish that it was still around.
At Sunshine Solutions, we used recreation to teach important life principles like trust, unity, and hard work. We did group therapy as well with therapists. We also taught about God and Jesus Christ and how they can help us heal. We did lots of fun “field trip” activities every day to different places in Salt Lake. We went on lots of hikes, did artwork, wrote in journals, did the high and low ropes courses, etc. Every summer we took the older kids on backpacking trips. These kids had been through so much. They suffered from lots of emotional, mental and physical problems because of their individual backgrounds. It was very eye-opening. We tried to teach them good, constructive ways to work through their problems. We taught them that God can help.
One of the main things that we tried to instill in them was the motto, “I can do hard things”. So many of them had very low self-esteem and self-worth. We helped them to see that they could do hard things by doing activities with them like repelling, rock climbing, backpacking, and hiking. The boys ranch has a high ropes course that we would take the kids on. One of the activities for the high ropes course is to jump off of a 40 foot wiggling tree stump to try to grab on to a pole that is maybe 6-8 feet away. It’s hard to do. We taught them to face their fears. We would go on four-day backpacking trips to southern Utah in the hot summer. We went through deserts, slot canyons and we repelled down 200 foot waterfalls. It was awesome.
As our kids did these really challenging activities and as they would finish them, they began to believe that they could do hard things. They started to believe in themselves so that when challenges in their lives would come, they would remember the time that they jumped off a 40 foot stump or backpacked through the Utah desert and say, “If I could do that, I can overcome this challenge too.” The kids weren’t the only ones who learned this principle, but I also learned this from working at Sunshine Solutions too. I’m so grateful for the experiences that I had there. It has helped me to know that I am strong and that I can do hard things too, especially when God is helping me. I really treasure the lessons that I learned while working there.
I hope that when I have kids someday, I can teach them that they are strong and that they can do hard things. I want to teach my kids to rock climb, mountain bike, hike and backpack. I want my kids to do hard things so that they can have that confidence in themselves and also in God.
I love the scripture that says, “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak, therefore, I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in His strength I can do all things.” (Alma 26:12) I know that I can do anything as long as God is helping me. I am so strong with my Heavenly Father by my side.