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Scoutmaster Minute

posted Mar 6, 2010, 6:38 AM by Unknown user
Today I received an e-mail from a Dad whose son is very excited about joining Scouting. He asked about the commitment required through Scouting, because they had another child with special needs. I was moved by the question, because I, too, have a child with special needs.

I thought back on our Scouting journey and recalled several special moments that would not have happened, if not for the Scout Law being lived by the boys. I recall our first camp-out that included a 5-mile hike. My son was weak and unsure about carrying his pack, but was determined to persevere to “fit in” with his peers. His balance was off, he was slow and could not navigate the rough parts of the trail. This was his first Boy Scout camping experience, and I knew he was miserable.

I recall one moment where the entire Troop was stopped at a crossing where my son was trying to step down a steep grade, over a fallen tree, on a rocky slope. I felt embarrassed and knew he was struggling. I started forward to assist, then I saw one of the older boys take his hand. He coached my son through the obstacle… a slow, painfully frustrating exchange of commands and actions… or inactions…that had me wanting to intervene. I wanted to just lift him up and set him down on the other side of the obstacle, but I watched. I watched this mild mannered coach, who could not have been more than 14-years-old, patiently work with my son on every step. Then, once past this barrier, all of the boys offered encouragement and praise.

Wow, mark this moment! The mild mannered coach later became an Eagle Scout and has graduated from high school. This event was probably not even significant to my son, but I was changed that day. I saw through my son’s eyes that Boy Scouts are Helpful, Friendly, Courteous and Kind.

Fast forward six years later. I am on a sailboat in the Florida Keys with my son, another leader and his son, two other boys, and the Captain. Six days in the Keys exploring the High Adventure of Scouting. After about three days… and hot nights on deck, the quarters become very tight. However, what an opportunity to get to know one another.

I struck a conversation with one of the boys about how he and my son interact outside of Scouting. I was astounded at the answer by this 16-year-old. This boy and my son don’t claim to have a lot in common. They don’t hang out together and other than through Scouting, I don’t think they have a lot of interaction. However, this young man had a profound admiration for my son, a special relationship that was very “brotherly,” a protective spirit, and defensive posture toward anyone who demonstrated ill will. It dawned on me that the Scout Law was alive and being lived by these boys.

My son turned 18 this week — a milestone in our lives. Many stories of Scouting’s influence can be told, but the one’s that make me proud are the stories of personal interaction. Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, and Kind are alive and well.

Scouting is about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness. Our charge is to be inclusive. I have many stories I can tell my new friend, who is curious about the commitment of Scouting and what impacts it will have on his family and special needs child. My advice will be that the commitment of Scouting is a life long covenant to the ideals of Scouting, the Scout Oath, and Law.

Indeed, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, and Kind are alive and being practiced by today’s youth. Sometimes, it takes the engagement of a person with special needs to make us “regular” folks see the gift.

Bill Edge is the Scoutmaster for Powdersville Troop 210, which meets at Bethesda United Methodist Church in Powdersville.