Sunday, March 16, 2014

Opa and Scouting: The Beginning

I had the occasion to spend some time with Dad recently to get his input on the connection the Heiss family has with scouting. I knew it started with Opa, but I didn’t know how or why.

When Dad was about to turn 12, the bishop of the ward asked Opa to serve as Scout Master. Now, Opa had no experience with scouting. In fact, he didn’t know the first thing about the organization or the history the church had with this program. But the calling came as a perfect storm.

Dad was on the cusp of scout age. The bishop could not find anyone willing to serve as Scout Master. Opa loved hiking, camping, and the outdoors in general.

So, with a love of the outdoors, a son coming into the program, and a person willing to take on the challenge of a program that had failed to take root in the ward, the bishop called Opa to be Scout Master. He accepted and the foundation of a long-term scouting relationship was started.

Opa loved his new calling. He did spend time learning how to run the program but he did not attend any of the formal training workshops or monthly roundtables. He simply loved working with the boys. The merit badges gave the program structure and Opa’s love of the landscape and beauty of the Bay Area awakened the boy that still lurked in Opa’s heart.

As much as Opa loved scouting, Dad loved it even more. Dad was competitive by nature and loved to play and win at games. Scouting is filled with games and competitions which more than satisfied his needs. Dad loved to camp.  Scouting allowed him to experience the outdoors with his father and friends. Dad also loved the structure of scouting. He identified with uniforms, patrols, and the chain of command. This, too, was a vital part of scouting.

Most important, however, scouting provided measurable and consistent achievement. A boy entered the troop as a Tenderfoot, could quickly advance to Second Class, and achieve First Class soon after that. At this point, scouting really begins. Once a boy gets to First Class, he is well on his way to Eagle. Of course, there is Star and Life Scout to obtain, but if you keep a boy willingly involved past First Class you typically have a scout for life.

While the scouting program was sponsored by the Church, Opa’s troop had a solid number of non-members who participated. Many of Dads’ friends joined the troop so Opa was blessed with a strong group of boys who joined scouting because they wanted to, not because they had to.

To this day, Dad can look back at his years as a Boy Scout as providing him some of his greatest childhood memories. The friendships he established through these years have not faded over time. To Dad, scouting was a vital part of his teen-age years. Because it had provided him so much, we willingly gave back to the program. In fact, even now, with Dad being 85, he is serving as assistant Weblos leader in his ward.

He is, indeed, a scout for life.

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