116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In a swirling slurry of freezing rain I struggled tying a taut-line hitch on the tent’s guyline. After a few tries with cold numbed fingers I succeeded in tying a knot I’d just learned the week before.
All night a whistling wind shook sleet off the tent as a few of us Scouts huddled inside. We emerged into a frigid morning, started a fire, and cooked breakfast. I was 11 and a proud new Boy Scout on his first overnight.
That was 61 years ago, yet I remain a Scout in spirit. Not interested in athletics or other school extracurricular activities, Scouting was my youthful passion. Lessons learned propelled me toward a successful and fulfilling career and family.
It pains me that some adults violated the Scout Oath and abused youngsters they were charged with helping. It is an enormous breach of trust that haunts both the victims and the Scouting organization. I believe this injustice was caused by a minority of the vast number of adult Scouters who help young people learn life skills. Lawsuits may help bring justice to those wronged, but I hope they don’t destroy an otherwise vital organization.
Just recently I used a taut-line hitch to secure a rowboat to my truck’s bed. Tangible skills, like knot tying, first aid, and safety, are basic skills, but Scouting’s lessons are broader. Perhaps most relevant is learning group problem solving. Experience gained encouraging a patrol of hungry shivering boys to cooperate building a fire and cooking breakfast extends to careers. Solving complex workplace problems frequently involves building cooperation to work toward a common goal. That’s not much different from starting a campfire.
I was mentored by wise men who volunteered their time to teach boys basic skills, take us on outings and carefully monitor us. Knowing that experience is the best teacher they let us fumble around until we figured out how to accomplish a task ourselves. They’d only intervene if we did something unsafe or profoundly stupid.
Young people benefit when parental values are reinforced by nonrelatives. These may be coaches, teachers, clergy, band leaders, or caring neighbors. Adult Scouters provide this essential service for thousands of young people who love outdoor adventure.
The oaths I took when I became a Scout and another I took when I was inducted into the Army are lifelong guides and commitments. They still serve me well decades after leaving both institutions.
In an era when many people lack vital hands-on and interpersonal skills, Scouting helps young people learn through experience. Hail to the Scouts.
The Boy Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country. To obey the Scout Law. To keep myself physically strong mentally awake and morally straight.
Rich Patterson lives in Cedar Rapids and earned his Eagle Scout Rank in Denville, New Jersey’s Troop 17.