Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cub Scouts: My Good Deed

My guess is that after all the posts about Dad’s scouting experiences and all the good he did to mold the lives of the dozens of boys that passed through his troop you would assume that I would be the world’s greatest advocate for Scouting. However, I started the series of posts lambasting the BSA and calling them irrelevant. An odd sentiment coming from one so steeped in Scouting.

I still hold firm to my assertion of the need to jettison Scouting from our culture. But, I say this not as a critic from the outside looking in, but as a person who has been inside and is now looking out. To that end, I will now share some of my memories of Scouting to help you, and me, better understand why I feel the way I do.

To be sure, I have many fond memories of being a Scout. In fact, my initial experience as a Cub Scout provided some of the happiest childhood memories I have.

When an LDS boy turns eight, two important things happen. First, the child is old enough to be baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. Second, he becomes a Cub Scout. For many eight year old boys, the introduction to Cub Scouts seems more important than baptism. So it was for me.

First, you get a cool dark blue uniform. Now as I was the second son, I inherited Matt’s uniform. But an eight year old boy really doesn’t care. It just felt so cool wearing a Cub Scout uniform. It made you feel important and part of something.

Cub Scout leaders are almost always women. They are called Den Mothers. This is an accurate title for this lofty position because she truly becomes a surrogate mother. What is cool about a Den Mother is that the Cub Scout will do anything to make her proud of him.

If the Den Mother says the Cub Scouts should make their beds, clean their rooms, and eat their vegetables, the boys are more likely to do what she asks even though their own mom had been saying those same things for years and has been mostly ignored.

I had two Den Mothers. One for the Wolf Pack named Sister Waite. My other Den Mother was for the Bear Den and her name was Kettle Howard. Lucky for me, both Den Mothers lived in the same house. Sister Waite moved out towards the end of my time in the Wolf Den and Sister Howard moved into that house.

The most important thing you do on your first day at Cubs is get your Bobcat badge. The trick here is that the Den Mother pins the Bobcat badge on your shirt upside down. Before you have a chance to let her know of this problem she explains that the badge must remain upside down until you do a good deed.

I was panicked. What counted as a good deed? Did I have to rescue someone from a burning building? I hope not. I was already afraid of fire. Did I have to help an old lady across the street? I hoped not, I was equally afraid of old ladies as I was of fire. What could I possibly do? What if I thought of nothing and my Bobcat pin stayed upside down forever? I would be so embarrassed.

But Sister Waite, seeing the fear in my eyes, gave me some suggestions. She said to do something that I normally neglected to do until Mom reminded me. If I did it without being reminded, it would count as a good deed.

Whew! I could do that. So I ran home as soon as Cubs was over and quickly cleaned my room without being asked. I told Mom what I had done and, lucky for me, I was still wearing my Cub shirt with the upside down Bobcat pin. Mom had already been through this drill with Matt so she knew that she had to express utter delight in my “good deed” and then make a big scene about turning by Bobcat badge right side up.

Mom was quite good at doing her part. I can still remember standing in her bedroom by her bathroom door and having her turn my Bobcat badge right side up. I was the proudest Cub Scout on the entire planet. Unfortunately, me willingness to do what I was supposed to so without being told was short-lived. Now at I had my Bobcat pin right side up, I didn’t need to do any more good deeds. I don’t think I learned the intended lesson.

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