I had two scoutmaster conferences last night. That's a bit unusual for me, especially since in the Venturing program, the scoutmaster conference is not a requirement for anything. But I did two last night. One was for the young man who was awarded his Eagle not long ago, which I mentioned here. It has been three months since his board of review and he is ready for an Eagle palm.
The other scoutmaster conference was for another young man who just finished his Eagle project. This one was a bit more difficult. This young man was largely absent from our activities and church for a year. I, along with several others, questioned whether or not he would be able to pass a board of review if he hasn't been doing his "duty to God." We wondered, if he didn't finish his project on time (he turns 18 next week) what this would do to a family already on the edge.
Throughout his leadership service project I wondered how much leadership he was actually showing. At times it seemed like his mother was doing the leadership and the son was doing the work, without getting others to help. There were questions about signatures on his workbook. When he did put together a day to get volunteers to help everything went well. He had good support and we got a lot done. (I just realized I should have posted about that...) But, it seemed like his mom was doing most of the leading. (I think she has a hard time letting someone else take charge.)
I had been looking forward to this Scoutmaster conference because I would finally have a chance to talk with this young man without his mother present and dominating the conversation. At the same time, I was dreading it, because there were some serious issues I thought we would need to discuss.
I had specifically wanted to discuss the issue of doing his "duty to God" and what he thought that meant, how he had done that, etc. As we talked, those issues became a little less of a concern. I got to know this young man a little better. I felt more comfortable with where he stands. We talked about coming to church more regularly, and he made a commitment to me, and to himself, that he would. We talked about what it would mean to be an Eagle Scout, and the example he would have to set for the other young men.
In the end, I felt comfortable with recommending him to his board of review. I suspect they will have some of the same concerns I did. There's a good chance they will question whether or not he has really demonstrated "Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath and Law in [his] everyday life." Those are important questions, but I hope the board will reach the same conclusion I did.
As we talked, and as I thought more about this, I decided that the Scout Oath doesn't require us to be perfect. It asks that we "do our best." Sometimes, in that process, we fall short. That doesn't mean that all is lost. It means we pick ourselves up and try again. I felt, and now believe, that this young man is in that position. He stopped for a while; he gave up. There were other issues with him and his family that influenced that, but for a time he just didn't care that much. But he is starting to make a change. He is trying again.
Some may say that he is only doing it to get his Eagle, and they might be right. But that's one of the great things about the Scouting program. It uses these methods to promote the development of an ethical and moral character. And if getting his Eagle is what will get this young man and his family back to church, then I'm fine with that.