The danger of traditional celebrations is that their significance is often lost in their familiarity.
I discovered that while creativity may not increase the cost of one's gift, it does increase its value.
Disappointments often come to us because of failed circumstances; they stay with us because of failed creativity.
It rained for six full days, not the kind of afternoon thundershowers we usually get in West Texas, but slow, steady, ground-soaking rain. It wasn't supposed to.
One, July is usually a hot, dry month for us, and, two, this was the last week of summer camp at Hidden Falls Ranch, a non-denominational Christian camp nestled on a cliff overlooking Palo Duro Canyon. The rain meant that the children would not get to ride horses, their favorite activity at the ranch and an impossible one with both slippery canyon trails and a sloppy rodeo arena.
As I huddled with the program staff, we tried to find some way to turn "Wild West Days," the week's theme, into something both fun and safe. The result was one of my all-time favorite weeks at the ranch: "Christmas in July."
All week long we prepared for a Christmas celebration on the final night of camp. We cut a tree (the red cedar was, more accurately, a Christmas bush), trimmed it with popcorn, berries, and hand-made decorations (I remember little snowmen made from yucca pods), and sang traditional Christmas carols.
The horse program was one of the best parts. Each day, instead of "saddling up," campers led their animals to grazing areas where horse and rider enjoyed a new and special bond. We held the Thursday night rodeo indoors where male counselors stood in for favorite mounts (I think 10-year-old Pat Lathem from Dalhart Texas won the barrel race up on Kinne "Buttons" Callaway).
The last night included a skit (Santa with uncooperative elves), a gift exchange, and more carols. The finale was a living manger scene (Mary rode a real donkey) accompanied by a simple reading of the Gospel narrative in Luke. There was not a dry eye in the crowd.
I have made three important discoveries as a result of our Christmas in July. All of them show the power of creativity.
A fresh message
The danger of traditional celebrations is that their significance is often lost in their familiarity. Creativity can recapture this. After sloshing through muddy terrain all week with wet, tired, yet laughing and singing friends, I gained a new appreciation for the emotions that must have filled the Bethlehem stable.
A valuable gift
We drew names early in the week for a gift exchange on the final night. The rule was we couldn't buy something at the camp store. Everything had to be created from natural materials. I discovered that while creativity may not increase the cost of one's gift, it does increase its value. For though I've long since forgotten what I received that night, the smile of the timid eight-year-old who gave it to me remains in my memory nearly 30 years later.
A part of hope
My final discovery came not that week in the aftermath of a West Texas rain, but much later in the aftermath of midlife storms. What I wish I had learned then but only now am comprehending is this: Disappointments often come to us because of failed circumstances; they stay with us because of failed creativity.
To overcome disappointment we must have hope, and hope must have an object. We must hope in something. Creativity envisions that something. It takes "Wild West Days" and transforms them into "Christmas in July."
My Articles about Hidden Falls Ranch (and its people)
It's Her One Time Around
Happy 30th Anniversary
Lost in the Palo Duro
Memories of Summer Camp
My Sister, My Advocate
To Uncle John and Aunt Betty: A Tribute
Hidden Falls Ranch: A 40th Anniversary Tribute
Vist Hidden Falls Ranch as it is today.
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