Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Scout Is Brave

Years ago several Camp Loll staffers found an abandoned badger den in the forest outside of camp boundaries. At first they prized it for its natural value. Then they came up with more insidious ideas.

The staffers found an old badger skin tucked away in the camp gear. Since the den was large enough for a person to hide in, they secreted one of their number inside the hole with the skin. They would then invite other staffers to come and look at the badger den they had found.

Just as the unsuspecting staffer went to poke his head into the hole, the boy in the hole would stick the head of the badger skin out of the hole while making an animal-like growl. The jokers would laugh as the startled staffer would run or try to climb a tree to get away.

The gag was repeated a number of times until Keith DeHart was the target. Keith happened to be carrying a spear, which was a Native American regalia project on which he had been working. When the badger head poked out of the hole, Keith was just as surprised as the others had been. But instead of running, he lifted the spear, cocked his arm, and prepared to skewer the badger. Fortunately, the jokers put a stop to the activity before someone got hurt. Keith is one of the bravest people I know.

Bravery is not fearlessness. It means doing what should be done despite fear.

When I was 17 I became stranded on a snowmobile trip in the back country. I had no knowledge of how to repair the machine. I had not been trained to stay with the machine and to engage in activities near the machine that would make it easier for searchers to find me.

Instead of backtracking toward the start of our journey, I made the foolhardy decision in the growing twilight to try to follow the remainder of my group that had disappeared over a hill some time earlier. I hiked for hours through deep snow in the darkness in an area totally unknown to me.

I was scared, but eventually I saw snowmobiles searching for me. Unfortunately, they bypassed me in the darkness. But I then knew where they had come from, so I did my best to follow their tracks. Searchers finally found me at 2 am a few hundred yards from the cabin that had been our destination.

Although I had broken the rules for what to do when lost in the back country (simply because I didn't know the rules), I had done my best to do what I had understood to be right. I faced my fears and forged ahead.

A few years ago I watched my oldest son respond to a call to play an important part in a scouting ceremony. He had played a similar role in other ceremonies, but had only seen the ceremony in question once or twice. But the event leaders were in desperate straits. The boy that was scheduled to play the part simply hadn't shown up. Many people would be watching. Moreover, my son prefers to avoid the limelight.

Instead of turning down the opportunity, my son stepped up to the challenge. An hour later he was playing the main part in a ceremony that lasted 45 minutes. He was scared. He stumbled over his lines a few times. He often had to read his lines from behind a prop he was holding. It wasn't the greatest performance, but it was passable. My son had bravely done what needed to be done, although, he would have preferred to avoid doing so.

When I was young, I was at a scouting event when several boys started talking about pranks they had seen pulled on others. This naturally led to the group coming up with pranks they could pull members of another patrol. The ringleaders in the group began developing some rather elaborate plans that required our participation.

I was not one of the popular boys in our large troop. Participating in the pranks would likely have raised my status in the group. But the pranks being discussed felt wrong to me. I squirmed as the ringleaders began detailing the parts that the less popular members of the group would play. Then one of my friends stood up and said, "I'm not going to do that. We are scouts, and a scout doesn't do that kind of thing."

Almost everyone except for the three ringleaders quickly chimed in that they wouldn't participate either. Finally, two of the ringleaders turned against the boy that was the driving force behind the plan. I'm sure that my friend was scared to stand up to the older and more popular boys. I'm sure that he had no idea that many others would join him as soon as he publicly took a position against the plan. But he bravely did the right thing anyway.

Fear does not excuse one from choosing right. It does not excuse one from the moral obligation to take a stand against something that is wrong. This is one of the principles that scouting seeks to instill in youth.

A scout is brave.

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