Last weekend we attended an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for a friend of our family. In case you don’t know it, Eagle Scout is the highest rank a Boy Scout can attain. It involves badges, meetings, camp-outs, a huge project at the end, and, at least in the case of the Eagle Scout at our house, lots of encouragement, deadlines, and angst on the parents’ part. I can speak from personal experience; when that Boy Scout gets the official Eagle Scout neckerchief planted on him, it is with great pride, and I must admit, relief, to see that this boy has finally reached the pinnacle.
I was raised with four sisters…no brothers. So, imagine my surprise when I was tasked with raising a boy. Boys are so different. Yes, that is one way to put it. They are fun, funny, full of adventure, and all over the place. They are also often clueless about the world around them. When my own son does anything that makes absolutely no sense to me, I’ll ask my husband, “Why would he do that?” And John’s stock response is: “Because he is a boy. And boys are dumb.” And over the years, that explanation has pretty much worked. John even uses it as an excuse for his own mishaps, and I’m inclined to accept that explanation. My friend, Anne, calls it the “Y factor” as in Y chromosome.
Our boy, indeed many boys, are caught in the very moment in which they are living, a fact which makes for delightful fun for them, and excruciating frustration for the mother who is trying to get her son to turn in his permission slip, comb his hair, and put his dirty laundry in the hamper.
Lest you protest that I am brushing all boys with a broad brush, which indeed I am, I invite you to an Eagle Scout ceremony.
After the guests are all seated, in shuffle the Scouts, heading toward the two rows in front in which they are to be seated. When one row is completely jammed with kids, the rest of the line becomes immobilized, one kid piling into another, with no idea where to go next. Mercifully, some adult points to the next row of chairs. "Oh".
Then the color guard is called upon. Again, the Scouts shuffle (always shuffle, never walk) holding the American flag at an awkward angle, one boy pulling his falling sash up on to his shoulder, another blowing the hair out of his eyes. We hold our breath as the rag-tag group attempts to put the flag in the stand.
On it goes. The boys mumble their readings, the littlest one showing only the top of his little blonde head; he doesn’t think to come stand in front of the tall podium.
Finally, the boy who will become an Eagle Scout is presented. And, again, we breathe a sigh of relief. Because he is well-groomed! He knows where to stand! He knows what to say! Somewhere along the line, this boy who is made of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails”, has grown up!
Yes, these boys are indeed clueless, and, perhaps, just plain dumb. But, as Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts once said, “The spirit is there in every boy; it has to be discovered and brought to light.” Indeed, the adult Boy Scout leaders have done just that; camping with these kids in subzero temps, attempting to run weekly meetings without any one getting injured, and sitting through endless merit badge discussions. These lovable little boys are handed the opportunity to grow up; maybe even become an Eagle Scout. The task is daunting, but as one writer said, “Small boys become big men through the influence of big men who care about small boys.” Thank goodness they do.
At the end of the ceremony, all the men in the audience who had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, (including my husband who is quick to say that he received his award "with my mom's foot on my backside") were invited to come to the front of the room to raise their hand in the “Three Fingered Salute”, while reciting the Boy Scout oath. Looking at these guys jostling for a spot to stand, adjusting their belts, and smoothing back their hair, I was reminded that a little clueless boy still resides in each of them.
Someone helped them along the way. And don’t we just love them all.