Why do we do this?
alan houser (houser@CEDR.LBL.GOV)
Mon, 25 Jul 1994 10:53:00 PDT
Every Scouter I know has one of those instances where he or she can say,
"That's why I do this." I had one last week, and I wanted to share it
This story starts over a year ago. I was recruiting Arthur's parents, more
than Arthur, as they were excellent Pack leaders (Andy was the Cubmaster).
I had met Arthur, but hadn't really gotten to know him very well. Their
den had been together since Tiger Cubs, and we had been very successful in
recruiting most of them.
My first inkling was when Deborah mentioned that Arthur wasn't sure he wanted
to join Boy Scouts. My stock answer was, "It's better to try something and
not like it, than not to try it and possibly miss out on something really
good," or words to that effect. Anyway, Arthur and his parents talked and
resolved that he would try it for ONE YEAR.
He went to summer camp with the Troop, and it was somewhat less than stellar,
I was told (I was with the Philmont crew & didn't have enough vacation to do
both). It turns out that Arthur had a problem with a short-fused temper,
but instead of taking it out on other people, he would internalize it,
expressing it by shutting out everyone and by flinging stuff around, though
he was careful not to throw at anyone.
Next was our fall trip to Yosemite. Two of us had to hold his hands and
walk him down the trail, cajoling him all of the way, finally reaching the
end of the trail an hour after the rest of the group and an hour after dark.
But I got to know Arthur pretty well....
Two months later, we are planning a short backpack trip (five mile loop), and
Arthur is listening in to the plans and decides he wants to go. He borrows
a pack form me, one my oldest son had outgrown, and we are off. Amid much
grumbling, he manages to make it through the trip OK, and as we near the
trailhead, I compliment him on completing a five-mile backpack. He responds,
"Yea, but I hated every step of the way!"
At this point, I should tell you that Arthur is an extremely bright kid,
very verbal, and very hard on himself in situations where he thinks he
should be doing well and isn't.
Anyway, in February, we have our annual ski trip. The single most popular
merit badge in our Troop is the Skiing Merit Badge. Over the course of a
four-day weekend, we can teach a kid the basics of cross-country skiing,
enough for him to satisfy the practical for the Skiing Merit Badge. Most all
of our Scouts have it on the first row of their sash.
Well, Arthur is going, or is he? We arrive at the lodge the night before,
and this morning we have loaded up the cars ready to hit the snow. My
Senior Patrol Leader comes out and says, Arthur has taken off his ski bib
and climbed back into his sleeping back. We exchange a few words; people
outside hear us exchanging words. I used a few words I have never used
with a kid before, at least not with one I'm not related to. Arthur gets
dressed again and joins us outside. Later, he apologized to me about his
behavior -- one of the very few times a kid has apologized to me about
anything. I apologize myself.
Later, as we're skiing, Arthur is getting very frustrated with falling down.
As he is acting out his frustration, he cannot get himself back up without
falling down again. I am trying to talk him through all of this, and
finally I get him to realize that he is getting in his own way of having a
good time. It's like magic. Suddenly he's laughing when he falls instead
of screaming. By the end of the trip, he's having a passably good time,
and he EARNED his first merit badge!
Camporee was rained out this year. As Scoutmaster for the Camporee, I had
to make the decision to cancel, based on several troops who just were not
prepared for wet weather (after so many years of drought in California,
what's to prepare for....). My Troop was in pretty good condition, but I
let the boys decide. The SPL asked the Patrol Leaders to query their
members, and after a close vote, we too packed up and went home early.
Interestingly, Arthur and most of the other first year Scouts voted to stay,
and my Philmont Crew (after hiking 9 of 11 days in the rain) voted to leave.
Just three weeks before summer camp, we held a Den Chief Training conference
with another Troop. Eleven of my 13 first year Scouts attended, including
Arthur. At lunch, I hear sounds like someone playing basketball inside the
Scout Hut. I go in and find Arthur flinging stuff around. I cannot get him
to talk to me, but at least he stops to have lunch by himself. Two weeks
later, he can tell me he had a run-in with a boy of the other Troop. I
explain to him that if he had told me then, we could have resolved it, but
now there was nothing to do.
Now we are at summer camp. Arthur is working hard, completing his Second and
First Class requirements, and earning three merit badges. Again there is
a run-in with another boy, one from our Troop, but this time he comes to
me and we work it out.
Finally, last week Arthur worked at Cub Scout Day Camp as a Junior Staff
Member. His Den Leader, a parent recruited by the offer to have her son
attend camp free(???), is a zero. The Camp Director recognizes it, Arthur
recognizes it, but on they go, until by Thursday, the parent doesn't even
bother to show up anymore. The Camp Director though has enough confidence
in Arthur that she lets him lead the den by himself the last two days!
And he did a great job of it as well. Not only that, but she mentioned
to me at Friday campfire that she was so impressed with Arthur and the
3 other Scouts from Troop 24, she is considering moving her own son
from his Troop to 24!
Sorry to have taken up so much bandwidth, but I hope you have enjoyed the
story of the making of First Class Scout Arthur.
Alan R. Houser
Scoutmaster, Berkeley Troop 24
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City