Last night was Cub Scout night. Each Thursday, the first through fourth graders that make up my son’s scout pack gather at 7pm in the lobby of their elementary school to open the week’s activities. Each week, the Cubmaster will choose one or two boys to lead the others in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Scout Promise. Last night, when the Cubmaster asked for a volunteer, my son’s hand shot up and I instantly knew this would be his chance to lead the pack. I could barely contain my pride and emotion as he walked to stand next to the flag, raising his fingers to his forehead in the scout salute.
Just a few months ago when my son first expressed interest in joining the scout pack at his school, I wrote a post highly critical of the Boy Scouts and what I perceived as their organizational culture of discrimination. Based on media stories and policy documents, I concluded that Boy Scouts was an organization to avoid. My son’s enthusiasm to be a part of the pack, combined with some very heartfelt testimonials by people I trust, helped me to overcome this conclusion and allow him to join. As I wrote last August, I was hesitantly willing to give “the local scout pack a chance to prove that it stands separate from the discriminatory policies of its bureaucratic parent.”
As I began to attend the scout activities with my son (first graders are required to have an adult partner at all meetings), I was on high alert for anything that might prove my misgivings correct and give me a reason to say, “See, I told you this wasn’t something we wanted him to be a part of.” The skeptic in me was at full attention, looking for the slightest evidence to support my concern.
I found none. From the first day, the pack leadership and other parents have been nothing but caring, supportive individuals whose only visible goals is for their sons to learn how to be responsible citizens, environmental stewards, and healthy individuals. My son looks forward to Thursday nights more than any activity of the week — a chance to be among his peers, learning and cooperating with them. We’ve met police officers and firefighters, visited a radio station, attending local sporting events, and played countless games where the boys learn teamwork and leadership. But most satisfying of all, the boys are enjoying themselves as they share the experience and accomplishments of scouting.
But the skeptic in me would not let go. Even as I attended parent leader trainings, I was still waiting for scouting to reveal its true colors — as I had defined them last summer. Even as I spent a beautiful weekend in October camping with the pack, I wanted to find that justification for my aforementioned conclusion. Even as my son walked across the stage to receive his Tiger badge last week at the annual Blue and Gold banquet, I still held some hesitancy in my heart.
Last night was weigh-in night for the Pinewood Derby, a long-standing scout tradition where the boys make a small car out of a block of pine, four wheels and four nails — and various accessories of their own design. Each scout had to present his car for weighing, measuring and a test run down the sloping metal track. In my role as pack photographer, I was sitting in a chair at the end of the track, taking each scout’s photo with his car after it passed inspection. Of all the parents and pack leaders, I had the best seat in the house. I could see the expression on each scout’s face as the track gate released their car, sending it down the track. Each and every one of the boys had the expression of accomplishment as their car sped to the bottom.
But the expression that I will never forget was the one plastered on my son’s face, as his car flashed from the top to the bottom. It was pure pride in his creation. He ran directly to me, excitement boiling over, knowing he had done well. He had accomplished something.
There are some things in life of which we are so certain that it is nearly impossible to let them go, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Sometimes it is not until that singular moment of revelation is served to us on a silver platter that we are willing to smile with black crow feathers stuck in between our teeth.
My singular moment of revelation came as his car crossed the red finish line and he ran towards me. My pride was coupled with a humility that I will never forget. It was a humility that knew I was wrong about scouting, wrong in every way. It was a humility that kicked the last hesitancy out of my heart.
At that moment, I knew that the decision to be a part of scouting would be my son’s to make from this day forward. He may decide at the end of this year that he’s had enough. Someday he may be an Eagle Scout, or maybe the Cubmaster of his son’s pack. But that will be his path to travel, one where I will be his partner and biggest supporter as long as he needs me.
There are countless instances throughout my life where I’ve been proven wrong and been forced – sometimes kicking and screaming – to swallow the jagged proof of my fallibility. But, last night, after seeing the pure joy of accomplishment in my son’s face, I’ve never tasted a slice of humble pie quite so nourishing and delicious.