If you are ever invited to a Boy Scout Eagle Ceremony, take it for the opportunity that is it and attend! When my oldest was in elementary school and wanting to join Cub Scouts with his friend, I was reluctant because I take serious issue with Boy Scouts of America anti-gay policies. But it seemed to me that like so much else in the world that is not perfect, the organization had a lot to offer that was positive, and I was confident that if it ever came up, I could certainly deprogram my own kids of any negative teaching. It turned out that it just never came up. In the over a dozen years that one or the other of the boys has been involved in scouting, there was no mention of it in any way at any meeting or event ever. And what did they gain along the way? Outdoors skills and appreciation of the outdoors from many more views than mine. The ability to self-organize and pursue a goal and ask for help when needed to achieve merit badges. Friendships with kids outside their school and with other interests. Leadership skills because the troop is boy-run so they are required to plan their own meetings and outings and also because the older kids are expected to teach and help and include the younger kids. High Adventure outings where they backpack and hike into real wilderness and are on their own as a small group dependent on their knowledge and gear and each other for survival.
It is difficult enough for a kid to fit in all the opportunities such as clubs and sports and hobbies that are available to them, so to join the cub scouts in second grade and stick with it until 5th grade when they select a Boy Scout troop is an accomplishment on its own, but then to stick with Boy Scouts through all the other demands and opportunities of junior high and high school is another challenge. But the best of the best stick with it to the end and ultimately become Eagle Scouts. Most people know about Eagle Scout projects, and often think that is all there is to it, but achieving the rank of Eagle is much more than the project. The project is merely a test or demonstration of the abilities gained through years of Scouting. The scout needs to achieve a number of merit badges in serious areas such as family life, personal fitness, community government, national government, the environment, and so on, that may not be the fun ones like metalworking or stamp collecting or other hobby related badges. The scout needs to be active in the troop, not just a member in name only, and participate in meetings and outings. The scout needs to have served in leadership positions within the troop, such as leading and planning meetings or being in charge of troop camping gear or planning and leading the educational aspect of each meeting. After, or during all that, the scout needs to design a project that is of service to the community, and plan and execute the project involving members of his troop in some way, so that the project itself becomes a leadership opportunity. Because these kids have been accustomed to meeting and planning and working with adult leaders, and because they have been in charge of educating and making younger kids a part of the troop each year, these kids have a confidence and ability to interact with people of all ages that is amazing. They are thoughtful, mature, and interesting, but because this has all happened under the framework of weekly gatherings and monthly outings and annual high adventure trips, these kids are light-hearted and fun. In short, they are competent. So, if you are ever invited to an Eagle Scout ceremony, do not dismiss it as another stuffy ceremony that you are obliged to attend, but make it a point to be there, to celebrate an accomplishment of a young man who will make a positive difference in the world.
Thanks to Scoutmaster Pfeifer for the Eagle photo and hats off to the three young men who will be recognized as Eagle Scouts this Sunday!