The orange flames of the firelight reflected in his glimmering eyes and made his young face glow like a new moon. The other small campers sat around in nervous, rapt attention as the nine-year-old boy told his breathless ghost story. While marshmallows turned black in the campfire and we huddled to stay warm, I thought to myself, “This is the good stuff.”
Fast-forward a few months to a church cafeteria whose tables and chairs had been replaced with a racetrack and 100 cheering boys gathered for the biggest competition of the year: the Pinewood Derby. Who would believe that the scores of handmade race cars all started as identical blocks of wood? Their colors, shapes and decor were as individual as the boy themselves, each of whom proudly held his race car up for me to see. One is not invited to touch such priceless works of art, but the boy will gladly hold it right up to your face and show you every angle, so you don’t miss a single detail.
Ah, the days of Boy Scouting! I’ve got hundreds of such scenes etched in my mind. But the years of camping, collecting food for the hungry, working on merit badges, trying to find the scarf as we’re running late for the meeting (again), and hearing the laughter around the campfire are not just sweet memories -- they are but a few of the thousands of experiences that help shape boys into responsible men.
Just a few months from now, my two boys will receive the rank of Eagle Scout. It has been a marvelous journey, filled with loads of fun, plenty of hard work, hours of community service, and close friendships. I’m so grateful that Scouting has been such an integral part of their lives. The Boy Scouts of America is perhaps the finest civic organization in the world, and the invaluable contributions that Scouting has made to our nation are staggering.
Recently I came across a summary of how Scouting has affected the lives of thousands of boys and men, and even the course of history. Rather than paraphrase, I’ll let you read it for yourself. And as you do, you’ll understand why the Boy Scouts of America is one of our nation’s greatest treasures.
“One Hundred Scouts”
Of any one hundred boys who become Scouts, it must be confessed that thirty will drop out in their first year. Perhaps this may be regarded as a failure, but in later life all of these will remember that they had been Scouts and will speak well of the program.
Of the one hundred, only rarely will one ever appear before a juvenile court judge. Twelve of the one hundred will be from families that belong to no church. Through Scouting, these twelve and their families will be brought into contact with a church and will continue to be active all their lives. Six of the one hundred will enter the clergy of his chosen faith.
Each of the one hundred will learn something from Scouting. Almost all will develop hobbies that will add interest throughout the rest of their lives. Approximately one-half will serve in the military and in varying degrees profit from their Scout training. At least one will use it to save another person’s life and many will credit it with saving their own.
Four of the one hundred will reach Eagle rank, and at least one will later say that he valued his Eagle above his college degree. Many will find their future vocation through merit badge work and Scouting contacts. Seventeen of the one hundred boys will later become Scout leaders and will give leadership to thousands of additional boys.
Only one in four boys in America will become Scouts, but it is interesting to know that of the leaders of this nation in business, religion and politics, three out of four were Scouts.
This story will never end. Like the “Golden Pebble” of service dropped into the human sea, it will continue to radiate in ever-widening circles, influencing the characters of men down through unending time.
Editors note: To learn more about Scouting, or to find a troop near you, log onto www.scouting.org.
Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation.
©2005 Rebecca Hagelin
The feather graphics are furnished by: