So after a bit of investigating we've relocated off-site to an equally beautiful lodge ten miles away. This short distance has actually been helpful for me--I leave the kids at the lodge with the sitters and then am able to be more fully present to the teens. Speaking of the sitters, they are amazing. Wonderful! The kind of sitters that when you tell them they can take some time off their faces fall and they ask if they could just play with the kids instead. (And no, I'm not sharing their names with you because they are mine. MINE, I tell you!)
Ah, teen camp. I study the spiritual lives of teenagers for a job and yet, this concentrated dose of reality always jolts me a bit. I forgot about those seemingly random conversations that come up. ("So once my uncle was near the Empire State Building and he wanted to find this restaurant on his iPhone and he kept tying it in and he couldn't find it and he kept walking back and forth right in front of it and he literally missed it because he was on his iPhone trying to find it." This was said in response to my statement of, "That was a crazy game this morning. I thought someone was going to get killed.")
And my heart always aches to see that one kid by herself, following a small crowd at a short distance. My heart also aches knowing that in a camp of this size there are a high number of teens dealing with eating disorders or some kind of abuse. Often times camping experiences are disorienting enough (in the positive way) to jolt the individual into the realization that the pain they are experiencing back home can and should stop. Ah, teen camp.
The schedule is pretty hectic and I've got my "vacation responder" on my email account to buy me some wiggle room in my response time. I laugh every time I set up my responder because I can't help but think about a misunderstanding I had with one of my teens when I was a youth pastor. I was away at a conference and put up a responder that read,
"Thanks for the email. I'm out of the office and will respond shortly."
One of my dear, sweet students got this message after emailing me a question about the start time of a youth event. She got the automatic message and wrote:
"I forgot you were out of the office. Would you mind telling me the time anyway?"
Again she received, "Thanks for the email. I'm out of the office and will respond shortly."
To which she replied, "I KNOW YOU'RE NOT IN THE OFFICE BUT CAN YOU PLEASE JUST TELL ME WHAT TIME IT STARTS?"
And that's why my vacation responder always begins with, "This is an automated response."
Love you, Sophers!