February 21, 2008

Excellence in Scouting

My son was awarded a special, surprise honor tonight. He was brought up in front of everyone and given a plaque and everything. The award was for excellence in scouting--in exhibiting courage and demonstrating outstanding scouting skills under duress.

As many of you know, I am conflicted when it comes to my family's deep involvement in Cub Scouts (and starting next month Boy Scouts also). I am not religious, and Scouting has a strong undercurrent of Christianity at its core. I also favor gay rights and have many gay friends and coworkers, and I abhor BSA's stated policy forbidding gay adults to hold leadership positions in scouting, and forbidding gay youth to participate. I think that policy is reprehensible.

Yet there are so many good skills and values taught and learned through scouting. The outdoors activities and respect of nature are top of my list. And this is where Ethan excelled.

Last Christmas we drove to my mom's in Las Vegas, a trip we very much enjoy. Sam had a broken arm, so he could not go on the rigorous hike up to Turtle Head Peak in Red Rock Canyon. So only Ethan and Grandpa (my stepfather) went. They got up the tough hike to the peak and ate lunch, then started down. Grandpa is a bit of an adventurer, though, and instead of coming down the trail, he wanted to go down the back side of the mountain. Ethan resisted, but what's an 11-year-old going to do when faced with an adamant grandfather? So they trekked down the back side, where there is no trail. It's treacherous and steep, and grandpa fell and got pretty banged up. Ethan, however, kept his cool and did not panic, and he helped grandpa get up and continue on. What makes this scary (from my perspective as a dad) is that the afternoon was wearing on, and they were in an area no other hikers would find them and at least a mile from any road. I shudder to think what might have happened if grandpa had gotten seriously hurt in his fall and was unable to continue on. As it is, they made the road about 3 miles away from the parked car and had to hitch-hike to get back before the park gates closed.

Do I think Ethan deserves an award, including an official letter of commendation from our scouting district? Yes, I do. It must have been very scary for an 11-year-old to see his grandfather fall and get hurt, out in the middle of desert wilderness. But he kept his head and kept grandpa moving. Without the training and practice that he gets from scouting, Ethan might have reacted differently.

We love to go camping and hiking as a family, and I'm glad my boys have a chance to learn these skills very young and get comfortable in the outdoors. I know when they get older they'll have an environmentalist's attitude for conservation and respect of nature, and they'll be able to enjoy it in a way that many people, particularly Americans, don't understand. You can't experience nature from behind the wheel of a Hummer.


Chris Eldin said...

That is awesome! Congratulations!!

But as a mother, I would've been scared out of my mind. Good thing grandfather didn't get hurt.

bluesugarpoet said...

What a proud moment for both son and dad! Woo hoo!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. Give him a hug from me!