Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Lessons of Scouting

Eagle Scout Badge, Type 8

I'm not going to chase the topic of Gays in the military this morning, though I feel like I have to mention it because it has some connection to where I'm actually going. It seems to me a moot point, because there already are Gay men and women in the military. They've been there for a long time, very likely going back to 1776.
Homosexuality is not an invention of the 20th century."Don't ask, don't tell" strikes me as playing make-believe. But I realize change occurs slowly, for better or worse, and it took a long time before we realized African-Americans had the right to be granted equal status within the Corps.

For several years I was an adult leader in the Boy Scouts. What has gained Scouting national attention over the past few years has been it's position on homosexuality. I've always thought that whole state of affairs was unfortunate, because at the time of my involvement, Scouting was (and still is, by the way) an opportunity to work with our sons or sons of those we knew and help them move toward developing their potential as leaders. From that standpoint, it was an incredible experience. I'd even go so far as to say it was one of the best of my adult life.

Ours was a small troop but that worked to our advantage because it permitted everyone to participate and have some responsibility. The parents, mostly dads, and I took our kids camping, rock climbing, white water canoeing, and spent a week each summer fighting off mosquitoes in the Texas heat at summer camp. The boys sold fertilizer and trash bags, door to door, to raise money for our operating expenses and completed service projects in the community. By the time my tenure was over, if a year went by without one of the guys earning his Eagle badge, we made it up with two the next.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is not a guarantee of success in life, but it does seem to help. I won't list all the famous persons who've earned the rank, you can check that out by following this link. What is important about it, as I see it, is the way it serves as a rite of initiation. I've witnessed boys walk into an Eagle council, where adult leaders evaluate his accomplishments and make the final determination as to whether he has earned the rank, and walk out young men. The transformation was literally visible. I don't know how it happened, I just know it did and it always left me in awe.

Unlike most of the adult leaders I've known, for a number of reasons that aren't important, I wasn't a Boy Scout growing up. Did I miss anything? If I did, I gained it as an adult leader and mostly from the boys themselves. By helping them establish maturing identities and grow in self-awareness, I grew in much the same ways. They taught me how to enjoy life, embracing it fully, and not worry about making a fool of myself. Do I ever owe them for that one. In a lot of ways, we learned the lessons of Scouting together. They learned how to lead and I learned how to parent. It was a true collaboration and I'm grateful to have been a part of it.


(Image of unknown licensing via Wikipedia)
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