By Jen Murphree, Director of Admissions
As I write this, I have a deep sense of bittersweet sadness. Earlier today, I had to say, “See you when I see you,” to a Rancher at Rainbow Acres who is moving to a new home tomorrow.
As our Ranchers progress through life, sometimes moving to a different place represents the right “next step” for their health and well-being. I knew this was the case for Patty. I also realized that the pain that occurs whenever a Rancher leaves Rainbow Acres stems from the indelible mark they have left on the Ranch – a lasting impression that is unique to them.
At Rainbow Acres, Patty created a special ministry all her own, what I’ll call the Rainbow necklace and bracelet ministry. For the past seven years, I have been giving tours of the Ranch for families, consultants and other visitors (probably several hundred during that time). In almost every one of my tours, it was inevitable to run into this very special lady. When my guests introduced themselves, she would invariably take off a beaded bracelet or necklace (which she had created, using beads of every color) and give it to them.
Time and time again, I witnessed something spectacular happen. Guests that had been nervous suddenly became calm. They would gently touch those beads throughout the rest of their tour. Many times, they would say things like, “I won’t forget her. That was so special.” Over the years, Patty’s ministry went national. Today, people from all over the country have these simple bracelets and necklaces, made with love and given to them without a second of hesitation.
Once, I was in a faraway city at a conference and one of the professionals I know was wearing one of Patty’s bracelets! They said that they wear it to remember how special it was to visit Rainbow Acres and meet the Ranchers that call it home. When this person said that, a few others in the same professional circle shared that they knew exactly where theirs were as well.
As I thought about this, I realized that the next time I am able to give a tour, we won’t be running into Patty on the Ranch. The sadness from that is part of the difference between Rainbow Acres being a job and a “calling.” My heart aches for that future moment when no bracelet will be given. However, I know that life is filled with transition and change. I will strive (once I wipe away a few tears) to remember that change offers a great opportunity to see the beautiful impact that each person can have on others they meet.
Each and every Rancher, and each and every staff person of Rainbow Acres, carries with them their own gift that they choose to share. That is what makes this place so special. There is no need for someone to pick up the torch and start making identical bracelets. They can if they want, but they can also continue to bless each other and our guests in their own way. Like the way they welcome people first thing in the morning, notice someone is down and give an encouraging word, share fun thoughts and ideas, look out for someone who needs a walking buddy, and pray for not just themselves but for people all over the country and the world.
I often say on tours that Rainbow Acres has beautiful, modern buildings, and that we really enjoy engaging the Ranchers in daily programs and activities. But what is special about Rainbow Acres is the people. Each individual finds a way to make their mark, not for recognition or praise, but because they want to contribute to what already makes this community special.
Patty, thank you again for my bracelets and necklaces that I have been hoarding for the past seven years. They will last me a lifetime.