Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Last Word On..., No. 5: Boy Scouting

Most of you reading this already know I was in Scouting for a while...but most of you also wouldn't know that if I never told you, even if you knew me when I was in it, unless you were somehow involved with it yourself.  In my daily ponderings, I often think back on my time in Scouting, and what it means to me today.  Those weren't my glory days by any stretch of the imagination, so, it's not reminiscing about "the good old days"; it's actually the things I learned from my experience, most of which have nothing to do with camping, tying knots, hiking, and the things that you're actually supposed to learn in Scouting.  On this blog and elsewhere, I've often talked at length about my experiences, but, every so often, a new realization comes up, and it causes me to think about what happened back then in ways that I hadn't before.  As I had said before about this series of posts, this will be my final word on each topic, and I won't be replying to any comments, though you are free to respond if you wish.  Still with me? Then, here we go.

First off: Joining Boy Scouting went against my better judgment, but I did it anyway...and it ended up being worse than I ever could have imagined.  In January of 1998, I joined a Cub Scout troop that a friend from church was a member of, and I had fun...but, then, in 2000, I finished Cub Scouting, and it was time for me to cross over to Boy Scouting.  However, I almost didn't do it; it was only because my sister insisted, because she felt that I needed to be doing things with other guys.  However, there was a serious flaw in her logic: I didn't mind hanging out with people of the same gender--in fact, I often did that during lunchtime at school--but I did mind what everyone knows Boy Scouts do: camping, hiking, etc., all of which everyone who knows me knows is just not my thing.  Still, I reluctantly joined the Boy Scout troop my church sponsored...and things just continued to get worse the longer I stayed.  Between corrupt leadership, Scouts dropping out left and right (more on both of those later), and extraneous costs (seriously, forty bucks per year just to be a member?), it was just one problem after another.  After about thirteen months, my mom had enough and decided to pull the plug on it; she felt that the program was not a good fit for me, which is what I had said from the beginning.  Not only that, but, during my time in Scouting--both Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting, that is--they continually bent the rules for my sake, to the point where I had to be the only sixth grader in the country still in Cub Scouting.  When people--in Scouting or anywhere else--bent the rules for me in the past, I used to milk it for all it was worth...but, over time, I started to feel bad about it, and that happened in Scouting as well; I began to think that if they kept having to bend the rules for me, I shouldn't even be in it at all.

Second off: It seemed like nobody in my troop actually wanted to be a Boy Scout.  Of the millions of boys who have been in Scouting in the past century or so, only about four or five percent have actually completed the program and earned Eagle.  Some people would say that the majority of boys who don't are just lazy, or want something for nothing.  Maybe, in some cases, that's true...but, in my troop, there were bigger problems going on.  I constantly heard Scouts saying that "it's not fun anymore," and some complaints I heard were even worse than that.  Probably the worst complaint came from a fellow church member who was also in my troop; when we were all asked to share with the rest of the middle school group what the best and worst times in our lives were, he said, "The worst time in my life was the Klondike Derby." For those who don't know, the Klondike Derby is a camping trip that the Scouts go on every winter.  I actually went on that camping trip, too, and didn't enjoy it, either...but I definitely wouldn't call it the worst time in my life; what I said was the worst time in my life was when my neighborhood friends moved, which had nothing to do with Scouting.  Many of the Scouts who complained ended up dropping out or, at least, not earning Eagle...but some of them ended up completing the program.  Still, when they complained about it like they did, it kind of makes me think that they didn't really want to do it.

My last point before my conclusion: While Boy Scouting may be seen as a moral organization, my experience with it didn't give me that impression.  One time, a kid at a camping trip came out of a game of Capture the Flag crying because other Scouts were angrily refusing to play by the rules...and the leader he talked to did absolutely nothing.  Another time, on the same trip, some kids went to another part of the campsite, took longer than they were supposed to, and got punished as a result, despite trying to explain that it wasn't their fault...but another kid threw a temper tantrum in front of the whole troop and suffered no consequences at all.  The worst one to me, though, was the cereal incident: Long story short, the leaders didn't like the Scouts having cereal and milk for breakfast on camping trips because it was lazy...but the Scouts in my patrol did it anyway, and, because of supposed regulations, the leaders were powerless to stop them.  Allegedly, it was supposed to teach leadership skills...but, to me, all that taught was a "devil may care" attitude.  Plus, some of the kids in there were trouble; after I left Scouting, I found out that my sister felt that I shouldn't be hanging out with a guy in there who I quickly made friends with, even though she was the main reason I was in there in the first place! Looking back, I agree; he probably wasn't the best person for me to be hanging around, which is why it was probably divine providence that my mom decided to pull me out of Scouting when she did.

Now, for my conclusion: My time in Scouting came to an end nearly a decade and a half ago...so, why talk about it now? Does it really matter anymore? Well, it matters to me, and for more than one reason.  As I said, I learned things from that time in my life that have nothing to do with outdoor survival.  For one: If I have a bad feeling about something, I should avoid it unless absolutely necessary.  Over the years, I've had such feelings--akin to premonitions--about doing other things, and, whether I did them or not, I was proven right.  I had a bad feeling about going to church camp back in the summer of 1999; everybody and their mother--even my friends in my neighborhood, who weren't even part of my church--wanted me to go, but I didn't...and, the morning before I would have left, my brand-new computer went on the fritz.  If you know me, you know there's no way I could have enjoyed a week away with that looming over my head.  More to the point, I had similar feelings about getting a dog back in 2002, but, my mom got one anyway...and during the four years we had him, he was a continual thorn in our sides.  My mom got so frustrated with him that, one day, when he escaped from our fenced-in backyard and was running amok around the neighborhood, she said, "He can go and get hit by a car and killed; I don't care!" She eventually did go and get him...but only because she was afraid of getting sued in case he bit someone.  I knew from day one that kind of thing would happen...but nobody listened.  That may all be in the past, too, but what isn't is the potential of a relationship or the possibility of getting my driver's license.  You probably know I've had my doubts about those for quite a while; I used to say that circumstances in my life that stopped me from engaging in those things were a providential hindrance, and I still feel that way to a degree.  If what happened with Boy Scouting is any indication--and I feel that it is--then, it doesn't matter what whoever or whatever has to say about my future as a driver or a husband; it's not going to work out, and no amount of encouragement will change that.  Another thing that comes to mind: For some, a group like Boy Scouting would be a good place to make friends, because you meet like-minded individuals...but, even though I had some friends in there, most of them were not even remotely like me.  I've tried other groups--ones through my church or other churches in the area, and even one for people with the same "condition" as me--and they didn't work out; there was always some issue.  When it came to the latter group, the problem was that, despite us having the same "condition," their interests were nothing like mine; they couldn't have cared less about any of the topics that were important to me, and vice versa.  Assuming that all people with my "condition" would get along great is like assuming that all Hispanics or people from Arizona would be the best of friends; it smacks of generalization.  Even if they do have the same "condition" as me, they don't have my unique experiences.  Seriously, do you know anyone else around my age who essentially only had one parent until the time he/she was twenty, and grew up with a severely handicapped sibling, and gained a sibling-in-law (you know what I mean!) when he/she was only eight years old, and became an aunt/uncle when he/she was only a junior in high school?  Of course not! While some would say everyone is unique, I would say that some folks are more unique than others...and I know, because I'm one of those people.  If you know me, you can't help but agree...right?

1 comment:

Alastair Deans said...

Did you ever go to Camp Bonner in North Carolina for summer camp?