Winging It


Are we really planning a lock-in in one week?”

It sounded just as crazy then as it does to you now – but that didn’t stop it from happening.

Over the past few months I’ve found myself “planning” (if you can even call it that) at the last minute.  In fact, this has become such a common occurrence that when our youth-group Christmas party morphed into an all-night affair barely a week before the event itself, it only struck me as slightly risky… not insane… not impossible… just risky.

The fact is, life on the Rez has left me accustomed to last minute invitations, late starts, and hastily planned (or just mostly unplanned) meetings and events.  Winging it is simply a way of life – and no one seems to be bothered by it in the slightest.

As we drafted our lock-in schedule I couldn’t help but laugh as we added start times for each activity, knowing full well that the chances of starting any of them on time were about as likely as leftover pizza in a room full of teenagers.

Sure enough, the night came and only one kid arrived on time.  Even some of our chaperones arrived an hour late.  But since our schedule consisted mainly of “winging it” this really wasn’t an issue.  In the end it was a great night – complete with caroling, a white-elephant gift exchange, a campfire, worship, movies, and games.  All the kids dozed off by around 4 AM (though I’m not sure our first sleeper even made it to 1:00) leaving me and my co-leader playing endless card games to stay awake until breakfast and cleanup could begin.


So how did it go?  How does playing-it-by-ear usually go?  It turns everything into an exhilarating time of living in the moment; a joy which any chronic planner (like me) will miss out on by following their obsessive instincts at all times.  There’s something simply beautiful about letting things happen when they happen; about being completely honest in saying “I don’t know” when asked what’s next; about not worrying about fitting activities into a tight schedule but just going with the flow.

Don’t get me wrong – this degree of flexibility doesn’t work in all situations or even in all cultures – it certainly doesn’t work with large groups or strict deadlines – but with a small group of teenagers fully engrossed in reservation culture, sometimes less planning is actually better.

And this is something I’m learning to appreciate more each day.

The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least.  As second quarter comes to a close, I’ve been working with my students to prepare their annual Christmas program.  We spent about two and a half weeks rehearsing a 20 minute skit – and I couldn’t be more proud of how far they came over that period of time!

Sure, the skit was far from perfect – lines were forgotten, moments were missed, and characters were broken more than a few times – but they did it.  My shy students took the stage and took ownership of their roles as I raised the bar with each rehearsal.  I expected a lot from each of them but perfection was never the goal.  The goal, as with any performance, was to glorify the Giver of all good gifts by using those gifts to tell His story just as all of creation glorifies its Creator with every moment.


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