Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why the Scouts?

I was a Cub Scout. I made it all the way through Webelos. In fact, my dad was my den leader in Webelos. Yet I never went into Boy Scouts. I'm still not sure why. Through the years that part of my life has become misty until I don't really recall much except certain events, good and bad.

My oldest son followed in my footsteps in this regard. His mother was his den leader, and like me he didn't cross over into Boy Scouts. In his case the reason is clear - his friends didn't go into Boy Scouts.

Now we move to son #2. He was thrilled to cross over. It was I who was a bit hesitant. I mean c'mon - camping every month - even in the winter? These guys are crazy. I went along with it and went on my first scout camping trip.

It was March, and it was cold and damp. We arrived at dusk and carried our gear a great distance from the parking lot to the camp site. His buddy arrived about the same time, and together the three boys who were sharing a tent (scouts don't get their own tent - they share with other scouts) began setting it up by flashlight.

Anthony, my son's friend's father, and I started to help, but were told by an older scout that the boys had to do all the work - we could give them advice or verbal instructions, but it was their tent and they had to set it up. And surprisingly, they did get it set up fairly quickly.

Anthony and I set up my tent, which we were sharing, and by the time we were done, the scouts had a cheery fire going and were running around laughing and joking. After "cracker barrel" (cheese, crackers, apples, grapes, etc.) the kids were sent off to their tents and the adults sat around the fire drinking coffee and chatting. It was actually kind of fun.

That night I learned two important things. First, that you could stay warm in a tent, even if it was freezing outside. Second I learned that I can out-snore the best of them (or so they claim)! The next morning I learned how good food can taste when you're camping.

My son didn't last all the way through that first weekend, but has since gotten "into" it in a big way. Not only have we been camping in cold or hot weather, the past two summers we went to camp for a week, and next year he hopes to be able to attend the jamboree. Of course it's not all camping, and we have done various advancement and merit badge activities together, from fishing to star gazing to 50 mile bike rides.

I know not all troops are created equal, but ours is great. The older boys help the younger ones and everyone is (more or less) included and taken care of, no matter what their background or abilities. Parents (of both genders) are welcome to help in various capacities and the leaders are an impressive bunch of caring and capable men. If you are considering scouting, do "shop around" nearby troops to find one that meets your needs.

I am glad my son decided to participate in scouting. The Boy Scout's mission statement is "to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law." Over the past year and a half I have seen how scouting has helped him to grow in knowledge and confidence, as well as give us a way to be closer as father and son.


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