Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts aren’t in vogue anymore, not that they really have been in a long while. Maybe they always were considered a bit geeky, even if its participants didn’t see themselves that way. Kinda like ROTC. But now they’re even less cool because of the gay thing. I wouldn’t care so much – I was a Cub Scout for maybe a year or so when I was a kid – except that I have a son who is on the verge of earning his Eagle award. So my viewpoint is a bit different.

It has taxed him considerably. It has taxed his mother and me considerably. But from the moment he decided to really make Scouts a part of his life, he determined to get his Eagle. Even as friends fell out of the Scout program, even as others finished the program and moved on, even as the fumes (both car and per-) attacked, even as ennui has threatened to swallow it all, he has been set on the goal of getting his Eagle. So what does it mean, to him and to me? (I’ll let his mother speak for herself.)

Like most of the accomplishments in his life, he has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, achieving goals because of what they mean to him, not to others. He’s certainly an accomplished camper, but I don’t know that he’ll make it the major activity of his life. Ditto knot-tying, cub mentoring, etc. I think rather that he has wanted the Eagle because of what it means he has accomplished for himself, that he set the goal and met it, that he created something simple yet sturdy and lasting in his Eagle project, and that he didn’t give up the fight which means he has the stones to handle future endeavors in a similar manner. This may or may not impress a potential employer or friend or spouse, but it’s something he can and will put stock in for himself – and he already knows the power of that dividend.

He probably doesn’t agree with the Scout organization stance on gay leaders, or maybe he does. I don’t know for sure. The better thing to say is that the Scout stance on gays isn’t what Scouts is all about. Just as the scandal over molestation by priests doesn’t mean you get rid of Catholocism altogether, you don't give up on Scouts for a policy that will most likely be revoked before my dying day, if not his. Scouts is about teaching survival and self-reliance, and it’s also about teaching organization & leadership skills. Those are the qualities he has developed in Scouts, and the ones that will have the greatest impact over the rest of his life. And he knows it, too, which is exactly why he is a Scout and will be an Eagle. It ain't the uniform, the badges, the traditions, the lofty proclamations, or even the activities & campouts; rather, it's the growth and maturity that it fosters within. This above all else is the true mark of an Eagle.

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