To illustrate some of the problems many boys currently face and the strengths and diligence with which they address these problems, consider the young man I recently met during an Eagle review board. He was going to UVU to finish his high school education and working two jobs to help support his mother, and still found the energy, time and wherewithal to finish the requirements for the Eagle rank. In the Eagle review, it became clear that he was only able to carry on because of Scout leaders that kept track of him during several moves, monitored his progress, and encouraged him.
I remember another young man in an Eagle review board who responded to a question about his family by saying, “I’d rather not”, a clear message that Scout leaders were filling in where his family was failing him.
Many boys need time away from their families to develop self-confidence in their ability to solve problems on their own. I remember a 12 year old who suffered from constant bullying at school until he found his self-confidence during a troop summer camp when I was Scoutmaster. A huge, violent thunderstorm with pouring rain came through about midweek. His tent became a large water balloon, and he did a face plant in the mud when he went to try to rescue his stuff. He was sure he was going to die if he didn’t go home, but with the other boys helping, we got him dried out and comfortable before bedtime.
The frosting on the cake came when the two oldest boys admitted their sleeping bags were still wet and they didn’t know what to do about it. After school started, the boy’s mother called to ask, “What happened at camp?” I didn’t remember anything in particular, but soon learned that nobody bullied her son at school anymore. That is what Scout camps can do for boys.
I still wonder about, and am troubled by, what happened to an 11 year old when I was the New Scout leader in our ward. The bishop told me about him when he and his single mother moved into an apartment in the ward. I visited him, gave him a Scout Handbook, arranged to give him some uniform parts our sons had grown out of, and invited him to come to patrol meetings and an upcoming campout. He was eager and excited to come.
The other boys welcomed him and we did some map and compass exercises. I gave the boys an assignment to read the map and compass section in their handbooks, but I could tell the new kid was troubled by it so I asked him to stay after for a few minutes. That is when he admitted to me that he could not read. School had failed him because of their frequent moves. He looked greatly relieved when I told him we could fix that if he would meet with me and my family two or three times a week and let us teach him to read.
Before we had a chance to put the plan into action, he called to say they were moving because of a problem with the landlord. He cried because he was going to miss the campout, but I told him I would make sure his new leader knew about him and would take care of him. I took his registration papers and met with his new leader who promised to see to him and get him into a reading program. But I learned much later that his new leader did not keep his promise even though he had sworn on his honor to do his best.
Scout leaders need to understand that we are in the business of saving boys, one boy at a time. I can testify that Scouting succeeds about 98% of the time when leaders keep their promise and do their best.
Author: Lee Hansen | Saratoga Springs, BYU Chemistry professor for 32 years. Boy Scout volunteer for over 35 years, including 20 years as a Scoutmaster. Current chair of Learning for Life.