Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Scout is Friendly

The image above comes from a set of postcards issued in 1913. There's one for each point of the Scout Law. I first saw them on the Scouting Magazine blog.

An experience I had last night got me really thinking about this one, though.

I was running a bit late for our regularly scheduled activity and was stopped in the hall by a boy and his mother who wanted to sit down and go through his Eagle Scout project workbook. I had told them that I would be able to meet with them on Wednesday night, but I was thinking we would do it after the activity. I asked them if we could do it after. Mom said that she couldn't stay that late and wouldn't be able to do it after. I told Mom I didn't need her, just her son.

Upon further reflection, I probably shouldn't have said it that way. I was running late, I wanted this young man to join us in the activity, I wanted to be there for all my young men, and I would have liked to sit down with this young man and talk to him without his mother. Sometimes I get the feeling that she is perhaps a bit controlling. On the surface it looks like she is the one doing the project and not her son. I felt, and still do, that I could have met with just the son and gone over his packet without Mom. After all, it's his project and he should be the one to lead it.

Anyway, we had a bit of a conflict but I eventually realized this was where I needed to be so I let the other young men do their activity with the other leader and I sat down with Mom and boy.

I'm not going to detail all of the issues we discussed at that meeting, but I discovered that this young man doesn't feel like he fits in. He doesn't think he belongs, that he isn't part of our group. His mother doesn't think he fits in and doesn't think he is really a part of our group. They told me as much, but what really drove it home to me was when Mom said that she didn't realize we had an activity and she didn't want to take me away from my boys.

First, I cannot understand how she didn't know we had an activity. We have an activity every week. I gave the young man a calendar of all our activities the last time I saw him. They should have known we had an activity. But aside from that, what came across to me was that, in their mind, everyone else had an activity, but it wasn't for this young man. He wasn't part of the group.

The second part that really bothered me is the idea that she didn't want to take me away from my boys. It was almost as if her son wasn't one of my boys, and I was just the person who needed to sign his paperwork.

I think I know a few of the reasons why this young man feels like he doesn't belong. I think I can understand them. I hope I was able to help him see and understand the other side of the coin too, but I am really bothered by the idea this entire family feels that they don't belong, and that no one wants to help them. They said they had been asking for help for his project but haven't been able to get commitments from anyone. 

This gets me back to the Scout Law postcard above. "A Scout is Friendly. He is a Friend to all and a Brother to every other Scout." I wonder if I, or our other young men, have failed to be a Brother to this boy. I sincerely believe that none of them would ever consciously do anything to make this young man feel unwelcome or unwanted. They would never consciously do anything to embarrass him or make him feel uncomfortable. They are better boys than that. I hope that I haven't done anything to embarrass him or make him feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. I have never intended to do so. And I told him as much.

I believe all our young men are friendly to to this boy, but have they been his Brother? Have I? There is something in the concept of "Brother" that goes beyond "friendly." It's more than being nice. It's more than saying hello in the hallway at school or at the store. It's more than a casual relationship on Facebook. It involves a connection. In Scouting it could be the common experiences that we all share. But more than that, the idea of "Brother" involves the divine. It includes the idea that we are all children of God. It implies a sacred obligation to help. And when I say help I mean more than a simple Eagle Scout project. I think the fact that the word is capitalized emphasizes that.

There are a lot more issues in this case than I can describe here. Nor is this the proper place. But I have been really troubled by the whole experience. I hope I can be a better Brother to this young man. I hope our other young men will come to see him as their Brother. We may never develop the relationship he has with his brothers. He may not accept our reaching out to him. He has a part to play in this relationship that he may not want to play. He may reject everything we do to help. He might misinterpret our motives and choose to be offended. But he is still my Brother. I have a sacred obligation to try.

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