I should start by saying no one got hurt, no one died, and no one is going to jail…
It was August and we were heading home from Philmont Scout Ranch. Our two crews from the Troop stopped in Grand Junction, Colorado to eat at the Golden Corral Buffet, a restaurant that our Scouts came to love on the trip down to Philmont. I sat at a table with a handful of older Scouts and one in particular, I will call him Phil. Phil was a life Scout and a real active member of the Troop. Phil is a Senior in High School now, but at the time was enjoying his summer and just had a great time at Philmont. Phil has a little brother in the Troop that is real motivated and did a great job in pushing Phil to get going on advancement and taking a more active role in the Troop. So Phil and I started talking about his 18th Birthday and soon it would be on us. We talked about his goals and what he was planning on doing after high school. He stated that he was planning on joining the Army. Immediately I had some advice for him and we started talking about wrapping up his last requirements for Eagle. He had 8 months till he turned 18 and if he got going, he could knock out those last merit badges and focus on his Eagle Project.
About a month ago Phil decided that he really wanted to earn his Eagle rank. So, we started looking into how he could finish the merit badges and get the project rolling. Phil showed moments of absolute motivation and effort that I wish all our Scouts had in them. He also showed moments of “let it ride”. He fell into the trap of Maxing the minimum. Last week he got some critical merit badges complete and his Eagle Project approved. This week he hit a road block when he discovered that he was going to have a challenge that time would not allow him to over come. Tonight, he decided, along with discussion with his Dad and then me, that he could not finish before he turns 18 on Sunday.
Tonight I went to his home and sat and talked with him, his brother, and his Dad. We talked about the lessons learned through this process and that although he will not be an Eagle Scout, he has learned much from Scouting and that he is a better person for it. I shared with him that I am not an Eagle Scout.. in much the same fashion, I ran out of time when I was approaching my 18th birthday. I to joined the Army and turned 18 while in Basic Training. Instead of Eagle Scout, I earned Private First Class. All was not lost though.. the things that I learned in Scouting made me a successful soldier and in 24 months I achieved the rank of Sergeant. I shared all of this with Phil to reinforce that even though he can’t be an Eagle Scout he can take what Scouting gave him and what he learned and earned and apply it for the rest of his life.
Over the past few weeks and in particular the last few days, I have done everything that I can possibly do to assist this young man in becoming an Eagle Scout. I have looked for loop holes and work arounds and at the end of the day the lesson learned is that there is a process and that process needs to be done right. No short cuts, no loop holes, and no work arounds. With every thing we had we tried, we could not help the Scout that waited.
This is the first time I have ever had to look a young man in the eye and say that I am sorry he can not be an Eagle Scout. This is the first time that we have run the course and not succeeded. Not that the Scout is a failure, but that the Scout did not finish in time.
I am exhausted. This young man has worked hard, but he started to late to get motivated and get it done. I have seen a strong work ethic emerge in this young man and I hope that he learned that when he puts his mind to it, he can and will be successful. This short fall is not the end of the world and a great lesson in life.
He’s going to keep working on his project so it will benefit the community. That is a great thing. His service will be lasting, something he learned along the way in Scouting.
What I have learned in this process is that I need to do a better job of setting the Scouts up. I will not do the work, nor will I nag the Scout.. but what I will do, and what our Troop will do from this day forward is simple. On their 17th birthday we will sit down with the Scout and his progress record. We will explain the process and encourage them to start getting real serious if they want to be an Eagle Scout. They will have 365 day notice that time is running out. They will know beyond a shadow of a doubt what they need to finish and we will give them the tools to be successful. What they do with it from there is up to them.
I will not scramble like this again. I will not get in a position of working merit badges with a Scout 3 days before his 18th birthday. It is not the way the process is designed and does not demonstrate what it takes to be an Eagle Scout.
I feel real bad for Phil. I wish he was planning an Eagle Court of Honor right now. What I know for sure is that Phil has learn some valuable life lessons this last month and I feel that he will go on to do great things with his life because of it. I certainly hope so.
Scouting was real good for Phil. He did well. He just came up short. That’s life.. as hard as that is to hear. What he does with that knowledge is up to him now.
I gave him a coin tonight, it is the coin that I was allowed to have made when I became a Command Sergeant Major. I can’t award him the Eagle Medal, but the coin is to serve to him as a reminder of hard work and dedication and the rewards for effort. I am not an Eagle Scout, but I made it to the very top in the Army, so can he… if he wants to.
This has been a bad week for me in Scouting… but one that I learned alot and I hope that Phil did to.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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