Saturday, October 08, 2011

A Scout Is Loyal

I went on my first overnight hike with the Boy Scout troop just a couple of days before I turned 12.  Our family had recently acquired a new 'lightweight' pup tent made of nylon.  I was incredibly excited as I looked forward to hiking with the troop.

Having never been on an overnight hike, I plied my older brother for help in preparing.  He offered generous advice, including a lot of information about preparing for a weeklong hike in the back country.  I assiduously put my brother's advice to work, lading my pack with far more stuff than would be needed on an overnight campout.

On Friday afternoon our troop gathered in the driveway of our scoutmaster, Bob Porter.  It took a while for the adults that would be helping with transportation to get home from work and get ready to take us.  But eventually we were at the trailhead that would lead us to Malan's Basin.

The first stretch of the hike wasn't too bad.  There wasn't much of a climb as we hiked up the creek bed in the bottom of Taylor Canyon.  But all of that changed when we came to the spot where the switchbacks started.  Being somewhat of a couch potato, I was unprepared for the rigors of carrying an overladen backpack up a couple of miles of trail that climbed a couple thousand feet in elevation.

Before long I was at the rear of the pack of hikers.  They would stop and rest to wait for the stragglers to catch up.  As soon as I would arrive and drop my pack, the main group would head off up the trail, giving me no time for rest.

As the hike wore on, I trudged increasingly slowly up the interminable trail, taking frequent breaks and wondering if I would ever make it to the destination.

Eventually, I was alone.  Alone except for my scoutmaster, Bob Porter.  Bob hiked along with me at my slow pace, encouraging, cajoling, and keeping me somehow going as the sun set and the trail ahead began to disappear into the dusk.  We couldn't hear any of the rest of the troop any more, but Bob stayed with me.

It is true that Bob was responsible for my well being on this trip, but it isn't really possible to go astray on this trail.  Once you get going up the Taylor Canyon switchbacks, you will eventually reach Malan's Peak as long as you keep going.  Bob could have hiked on ahead and then sent someone back to assist me.  Bob could have carried my pack for me.  But he didn't.  He stayed with me and made sure that I gained the victory of carrying my own pack all the way to the campsite.

That's loyalty: devotion to doing the right thing.

Loyalty can be misplaced.  Some have engaged in immoral acts in the name of being loyal to a creed, nation, team, or person, etc.  My Dad saw that kind of thing when he grew up in Nazi Germany.  This is a counterfeit for the kind of loyalty promoted by the Boy Scouts of America.  Gordon B. Hinckley once said, "I think of loyalty in terms of being true to ourselves. ... We must be true to the very best that is in us."

One scouting leader said: 
"I once had a boss who said, “Greed makes the world go ‘round”.  He was wrong.  An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.  What makes families and communities and countries work—indeed, what makes the world go ‘round—is loyalty."
My earliest lessons in loyalty came at home among my family.  But my first lesson in scouting loyalty that I can remember happened on a lonely mountain trail when my scoutmaster refused to leave my side.

A Scout is loyal.

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