The Dale House: What I’ve Learned

November 25, 2011

This guest post continues our series onThe Dale House Project. It’s written by Ted Woodard, the former barefoot place kicker for Stephen F. Austin University. While you may not have seen Ted’s legendary right foot in action, the way Ted interacts with at-risk teenagers is worth watching. I had the privilege of working with Ted almost a decade ago at the DHP and recently asked him to share what he’s learned during his years at The Dale House.

One of my roles at the DHP is getting to hire and work with kids in our DHP Urban Garden. It’s a valuable chance for the residents to gain work experience, employer references, money to save, and something for their resume. I love seeing kids experience the “I did that” pride as they plant, water, harvest and eventually sell what they’ve grown at the local market. They learn all sorts of skills: how to build a raised bed, double dig a garden, waste interception, composting, and recycling.

Along with the opportunity to celebrate with kids, I also get the chance to fight hard to hold them accountable. Each of these moments, whether in celebration or discipline, are valuable and precious. These moments are filled with happiness, laughter, pain, disappointment, and the fear and excitement of many first experiences.

What have I learned during my years at the DHP? It’s all worth it. Giving love, receiving love, being rejected- it all brings us closer to our Father.

In 2001 we had a resident named “Cody” who was my “primary” and someone I spent a lot of time with. We experienced a lot together. We job hunted. We went to AA meetings. I knew his girlfriends, and friends, and sometimes even had to ask his friends to leave. I went with him to his high school to talk to his teachers and counselors. One day on the way to school I told him “Cody, Once you get your diploma, no one can take it away.”

After school we’d often play ball at the YMCA. Once I had to wrestle him off of a guy on the basketball court to prevent a fight. As the incident happened, it reminded him of harmful encounters in his past he’d had with his father. I apologized. Then we went and listened to some amazing Latino music together.

A few years later I got married and moved away for almost five years. Then, in 2009, Julie and I returned to work at the DHP. I hadn’t seen Cody in almost eight years.

One afternoon I was sitting in the lobby of ComCor, a community correctional facility that transitions adults who have been incarcerated back into the community. The young man I’d came with was in the back getting his ankle monitor read while I sat in a very depressing waiting room. People walking in there had “the look” of a living hard lives. As I was thinking about the darkness that filled this place, in walks Cody.

The 17 year old boy I once knew was now a 25 year old man. He was trying once again to transition back into the community – this time from prison. As Cody walked in, he looked to the right, and then to the left. He stared right at me and then turned straight ahead to the front desk to signed in.

I thought “Does he recognize me?”

He put the pen down, looked up towards me, and unleashed this huge smile. He stretched out his arms. I stood up and we embraced.

He said, “Ted!”

I responded, “Cody! I love you, Sir! So good to see you!”

He said the same back to me. I kissed him on the cheek and we sat and talked about the good ole days.

What I’ve learned at The DHP is that we’re not a hospital to cure kids, but a family to care for them.

If you are interested in finding out more about the possibility of working at the DHP (starting next June or September) you can call the DHP at 719-471-0642. They’d love to chat with you. You can also visit the Q&A section of the DHP website.

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