After 300 middle schoolers (dressed like cave people) dance for an hour at the Neanderthal Ball, there is only one word that accurately describes the Ranch gym: stanky.

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A light haze from our fog machine slowly dissipates, and campers sit down as our Work Crew Director and Program Director take the stage. A long-standing Ranch camp tradition is about to begin: the Wednesday night tragedy of announcing that we have “lost” our American flag.

This has happened as long as I have been at the Ranch, and for as long as anyone can remember. After our dance night, two staffers perform a short skit in which they relate that the flag was entrusted to someone on staff, chosen randomly every week, who they thought was trustworthy, but who has let them down. We all mourn the loss of our nation’s emblem, and the chosen staffer experiences some good-natured public reprimanding. Those on stage turn the tragedy into a blessing, however: they make the decision that because we can’t wake up to raise our nation’s emblem at the flag pole, we should just sleep in instead!

The kids go crazy! An entire extra hour of sleep?! Camp is so much fun, but it is tiring, and moving wake-up from 7:40 to 8:40 is a huge hit with the crowd. Not only that, but they are told that they will have a picnic breakfast on the porch of their cabins (in their pajamas if they want!), and that they don’t have to worry about cleaning their cabins for Pit and Palace the next day. It is a fun, silly way to bless these kids, but I love it.

I have had the joy of being on stage after the dance party for two summers now, and while I enjoy the fun I have breaking this good news to the kids, that’s not why I choose to continue the tradition. The after-dance skit allows us to show campers the value of rest, and not just sleep. We give them sleep, but we also give them an environment in their cabin that fosters unity and friendship, allowing them a chill morning in the middle of the week with the campers they are experiencing life with. We get to practice forgiveness with the staffer who “loses” the flag, and we get to see something lost that is found later on Thursday night.

There is no need for the after-dance skit. There is no need to sleep in, to change breakfast, or to give camp-wide grace for Pit and Palace. The Lord rested on the seventh day of work, and our campers rest on the fourth day of play. Why? Because He can and He cares, and so we do too.

So when you wake up, know that your kids are enjoying a little extra sleep, a little more time with friends, and a little bit of a mess in their cabin. And please, pray for our missing flag.

-Kitty Hawk-A-Loogie, Program Director