We arrived at the spring Camp-O-Ree ready to have some fun. Our patrol had made food and gear assignments in advance. After finding our campsite, the first order of business was to set up our tents. My partner and I got busy doing that, as did most of the other boys.
We quickly noticed one set of tent partners relaxing while the rest of us worked. When we asked these two boys where their tent was, they responded that they had decided to sleep under the stars. I cast a doubtful eye at the sky. Even at my young age, I could see that it would probably rain during the night. But, hey, it was their choice.
The evening progressed as normal. We built a fire, prepared and ate dinner, and spent the evening goofing around, telling stories, etc.
Just as our scoutmaster said that it was time to head off to bed, a few raindrops started falling. The two boys that lacked a tent suddenly looked very concerned. Our scoutmaster inquired as to how much space was available in each tent. All tents were completely full except for ours.
My partner had brought a tent that in theory could fit three people. I never believe what manufacturers say about the sleeping capacity of a tent. Their calculations might work for people under four feet tall and weighing less than 50 pounds. Everyone knows that a three-person tent is actually barely suitable for two.
As our scoutmaster looked around the campfire, my tent partner suddenly looked at me with big, pleading puppy-dog-like eyes. I knew that he was going to offer our tent. I tried to signal to him that I wasn't feeling very generous at the moment. After all, these boys had made a conscious choice and they should accept the natural consequences of their choice. Nevertheless, my tent partner quickly spoke up and said that the boys could sleep with us in our tent.
It was an awful night. The four of us were packed into far too small of a space. It was uncomfortable and I slept poorly. To top it off, the storm ended up dropping only a small scattering of drops once during the night. It was dry after that, and the morning dawned mostly clear. Those guys would have been just fine sleeping under the open skies.
But down inside I knew that my tent partner had done the right thing in making the offer. I knew that his act of kindness was the right thing for a scout to do.
Kindness doesn't stop with people. The Boy Scout Law says that kindness includes not harming or killing any living thing without good reason.
When I was young we went to visit my uncles that lived on the prairies of Wyoming. One Saturday afternoon we loaded up in a Jeep wagon and headed out of town. The men-folk hauled out a variety of weapons and started shooting various critters. Many prairie dogs bit the dust that day, along with a number of rabbits and various fowl.
All of the shooters seemed to quite enjoy the activity. None of these animals were taken for meat. Although I recognized that my relatives viewed these animals as vermin, the whole exercise struck me as wrong. The sheer pleasure derived from killing things repulsed me, especially when all of the carcasses were left to rot.
I'm sure that my uncles and cousins felt that they were performing a public service. In their minds, they had acted with good reason. All I can say for sure is that it didn't feel that way to me, and I lost all desire to participate in anything like that again. When I heard LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball give his 1978 speech about not killing the little birds, I felt vindicated.
Thanks to a tent partner that was more gracious than me, I saw scouting kindness in action that night camping long ago. I have since seen more acts of kindness than I could possibly count, many of them aimed at me. And I am grateful for each one.
A scout is kind.