August 12, 1990 was the eve of my eighteenth birthday. I was hanging out with some friends (they were girls) who had an apartment of their own and were attending Ricks College. I had, earlier that day, turned in all of the paperwork for my Eagle Scout rank. It was the last day of my eligibility, and a Sunday.
About 3:00 PM, there was a knock at the apartment door. My advancement counselor had tracked me down because I was missing one thing – the long form for my Eagle Scout Project. So, she had gone to the house. I wasn’t there, but my Mom knew exactly where I was. So off to the aparment of these friends (did I mention they were girls?) she went.
I grabbed the form, and headed out to my Scoutmaster’s place to have it signed. He wasn’t there. He was out at the local reservoir, skiing. So I headed out there.
I still remember Marcus tooling up and down the lake, slowing when he saw me standing out on the dock. “You need me to sign something?” he yelled.
I nodded affirmatively.
And he may have gone around the reservoir one more time, shaking his head and laughing, but he may not have. I think he actually did pull up, but the moment was so traumatic, I think I’ve blocked the details.
End of the story – the form was signed, and turned in before I turned 18.
And a week later, I was on my way to college. Without having had my Court of Honor yet. Fast forward another year. August 20, 1991. Back from a year at college, now nineteen, and having just come from church in a shirt and tie, we had my Court of Honor in my old cub scout leader’s back yard. It was great. While planning it out, my scout leaders had sat me down and we had the following conversation:
SL: We typically get someone who’s becoming an Eagle Scout either a jacket (a red jacket, as I recall) or a pocketknife.
SL: So, what’s your jacket size?
Me: …? What?
SL: Your jacket size. We figured you’d want the jacket.
Me: Uh, no. I want the knife.
My brother had failed to beat me to Eagle, so he sang. And I got a nice Shrade pocketknife, which I call Bess. It’s engraved with my name, the date of the Court of Honor, August 20, 1991, and the words “Eagle Scout.” It’s one of my prized possessions, though I mostly use it for opening mail.
I’ve seen recently some people sending their Eagle Scout rank advancements back to BSA headquarters. I suppose this is their equivalent of “throwing their medals over the White House fence” or something like that. They’ve decided not to stand with an organization that takes their principles seriously.
Before every meeting, and most especially before every Court of Honor, I would raise my arm to the square, and make an oath. Took me a while to memorize it as a kid, but I still remember it. The Scout Oath. It reads “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
Duty to God. Obedience to Law. Service to others. Moral discipline. These values seem to have fallen out of favor lately. Moral discipline is now called “hate”. Obedience to law is called “intolerance”. And Duty to God is derided as foolishness, or bigotry, or hate.
We would also recite the Scout Law – something else that took a while to memorize, but which I can recite now at the drop of a hat. The Scout Law says a scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.
These are meant to be guiding principles in the lives of the boys who have sworn with an oath to follow them. It’s the core of what makes Scouting a successful positive influence in the lives of young men. Look over those, and in particular, the last one. Reverence. How long has it been since our culture valued reverence? Placed a priority on the recognition of the sacred and the role it plays in our lives? Or if not in your own life, in the lives of those who do hold some things to be sacred? Is there no respect for the values of others? No way that we can disagree without conversation devolving into accusations of hate and bigotry? How can you build understanding and come together when you have no reverence – no respect for the beliefs of others?
Needless to say, I will not be surrendering my Eagle Scout rank. I worked hard for it. Had the support of good people. Got a sweet knife. And I swore an oath.
It’s an oath I intend to do my best… to keep.