Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Working at Boy Scout Camp

Recently one of my bosses told us that he delights in seeing the Boy Scouts scrutinized in the media for this mistake or that mistake. He said the reason for his pleasure was that the Boy Scouts were doing so much good and were so successful that other people were out to get the Boy Scouts. It is a different point of view to be sure.

I can say with certainty that Boy Scouts changed my life, several times. For example, I went on a ten day backpacking expedition at Philmont Scout Ranch in 2001 the summer after my freshman year. I also ran track in the spring of my freshman year in large part to get ready for that trek. I would have never guessed nine years ago that my exploits in the spring and summer of 2001 would have such life changing consequences. My two physical "hobbies" both took a big step up that year. There were steps before that point and after that point but that specific year was one where I really committed to both sports. Many of the pieces of gear that I bought for Philmont I still have and use occasionally. Those two weeks in New Mexico inspired me to spend a good part of three more summers are Philmont. That fall in cross country I had a breakthrough season and it pretty much cemented my passion for running.

So now as I am most of the way through my fourth summer at a Boy Scout camp I have been doing some reflecting on the whole experience. Why do I spend my summers teaching teenage boys outdoor skills? Why do I spend my summers with teenage boys instead of working with adults at a corporation? Why am I working for 20% of the pay that I thought I would be making with my education?

The answer is actually simple. We staff members don't really ever talk about it but you can see it during a flag ceremony or a mealtime prayer. You can see it when we are trying to get a 12 year old to do the 30 foot tall rappel even though he is crying and his legs are shaking. You can see it when we are handing out hot chocolate after swim tests (or the canoe T exercise) in our 64 degree lake. The reason is that we simply believe in what we are doing. It is honest work that makes kids... better. They have more confidence, more appreciation for the environment, they trust each other. Even though I don't talk to the kids I went through Boy Scouts with too often anymore we still have a bond. Like the 15 degree night in Kansas when the liquid soap turned into a solid. Unless you were there you can't appreciate how interesting it was to do dishes that night.

Someone once said, "it is better to give than to receive." I received so much in my seven years as a Boy Scout that I hope to give back some of that to the next generation. It is very rewarding when a 12 year old with shaky knees and tears gets down the rappel and shows up back at the head of the line five minutes later with a huge smile on his face because he had fun and wants to do it again.

Many people get paid only with money. I get paid with smiles, yells, and quiet compliments. Plus a little money. Life is good.

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