Joe, our high school senior, became an Eagle Scout when he was 15. Since then, I’ve spent most of my Scouting time in Pack 228 with Tom, our younger son.
But Tom’s Webelos den crossed over in November. Returning to Troop 228 after my stint in the pack has reminded me what a great roadmap Scouting is for boys navigating the trail to adulthood.
For starters, boys make friends for life in Scouts. In addition to spending the previous five years together in Cub Scouts, various combinations of the six Den 1 boys who crossed over into Troop 228 attend school and church and play soccer and basketball together, among other things.
It reminds me of my Scouting days. The guys in my pack and troop – the same ones I hung out with at church and school and in sports and music activities – are among my best friends today. Three of them stood up with me 22 years ago in my wedding, and one ran with me four years ago in my first half marathon.
Boys aren’t the only ones who make good friends in Scouts; their parents do, too. Some of the families of Tom’s and Joe’s Scout buddies, along with the adults I’ve served alongside as a pack and troop leader, are among those Kate and I most enjoy spending time with.
Speaking of adults, there’s no equal to the mentoring boys receive from their Scout leaders. In Cub Scouts, grown ups run things. But in Boy Scouts, they guide boys as they lead troop meetings, monthly overnights and other activities.
It’s usually messy, but the life lessons are powerful and become more meaningful as time marches on. I remember Joe’s first meeting as the Troop 228 senior patrol leader, a troop’s highest youth leadership position. He quickly learned that the side conversations and joking he heartily participated in as his predecessor tried to lead the troop made the senior patrol leader’s job difficult.
Although it took Joe a few meetings to get the hang of it and toughen up, the role prepared him well for opportunities that followed. His varsity soccer coach asked him earlier this year to serve as his team’s captain and reflected to Kate and me after the season on Joe’s unusual ability to simultaneously be among and lead his peers.
Those skills were forged in the fire of Scouting, to which Kate and I give full credit. There’s no better laboratory for life available to boys.
During Joe’s years in Troop 228, we went on a high adventure trip in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, did a 55-mile float trip on the Missouri Scenic Riverway and went on cool overnights at such places as the Strategic Air Command in Lincoln, Neb. and the Cosmosphere in Hutchison, Kan. What’s more, we camped for 10 days each summer at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Mo., replete with its uniquely powerful Tribe of Mic-O-Say.
I don’t know what the future holds for Joe, nor do I know what Tom’s Scouting experience will yield. Yet as I look back across the arc of my 44 years and ahead toward the horizon, I’m confident they’ll have the tools to navigate life’s ups and downs in large part because of their Scouting experiences.
Having been a Scout doesn’t make one immune to life’s difficulties. But it does provide a strong rudder to help us stay the course as the currents of life test and push us.
And that’s something we all appreciate.