Saturday, November 21, 2009


We had an Eagle Court of Honor recently for Alex, one of my Scouts. They are always nice to have. I was especially happy that the family didn't arrange to have a live eagle there like another family had last year.

I know that it is a pretty rare occasion to have someone actually earn the Eagle award, but from the number of people I know who are Eagles, it seems like it should be more common. That's okay, though. It's nice to have something that really takes sustained effort over several years to complete. Of course, everyone has stories of Scouts whose mom really earned their Eagle for them or whose Advancement Committee passed them along too easily, but even with a few Paper Eagles floating around, it's still a big accomplishment. That said, some of the best leaders I know topped out at Life. There is more to being a good person than being an Eagle Scout, but it's generally a pretty good sign that someone is a hard worker.

Like I said, I haven't seen very many of these awarded. Part of the reason is that I've moved around a little. I had worked hard to really motivate my first group of Scouts, and they were on fire. They had rank advancements and merit badges like crazy. Then they turned 14 and moved on to Varsity Scouts. That's the point in time where it gets harder to motivate them to work on advancement. They are often active and excited about the program still, just that they get stuck on the hard required merit badges that they've been putting off. I had a bit of a surprise when I had to repeat the process again with my next group, but now I know to expect it.

Having moved to a new ward and being switched around a little between Scouts and Varsities, I've never really had a boy earn his Eagle who I really felt like I had that big of a role in helping him get there. Most of my beginning Scouts either fizzled out when they got older or did eventually earn their Eagle under a different leader. I've also had the opposite a couple times, where one of my boys earned their Eagle but for whom I was made a leader over just as he was wrapping things up.

I've been trying to figure out where Alex fits in. I've been his Scoutmaster the entire time he's been in. In LDS troops, the Scoutmaster doesn't work a ton with the 11 year olds, although I think we should do more with them. A lot of 11 year old Scout leaders don't actually realize they are an ASM to the SM in the ward. They are discouraged from having many activities together, and the 11 year olds are limited on the number of campouts they can go on. That said, Alex actually came and worked on several of the required merit badges we were doing together, even though he was still in the 11 year old patrol. So I did work with him more his first year than I have most 11 year olds. And I've been with him for almost two years since he turned 12. He's almost 14 now. Alex's dad used to be SM, and his mom has worked a lot with Cub Scouts. So, as it should be, he worked on a lot of merit badges on his own, since his parents knew what they were doing.

Of course I helped with things, being the Scoutmaster, but not much more than any of my other Scouts who didn't have parents to help keep them motivated and get the rest of it done. So is seeing Alex earn his Eagle while I was working with him simply representative of all the boys I've worked with who haven't finished their Eagle?

He gave me the Mentor pin, which comes with the Mother and Father pins. It was funny as the Committee Chairman and I were helping him and his parents present each other with their awards, and as I explained what the Mentor pin was for, I heard his dad whispering to him to give it to me. Alex is pretty quiet and reserved, so he just sort of took the pin and didn't do anything, not having been coached beforehand about what he was supposed to do with it. So I just moved on. I wasn't about to stand there and hold out my hand for him to give it back to me, especially if he had someone else in mind to give it to. I was pretty sure he didn't have anyone else in mind. I didn't even know there was such a pin when I got my Eagle. In fact, after seeing one awarded when I was a leader, I went back through my box of Scouting stuff and pulled out my Eagle award case. Lo and behold, there was a Mentor pin sitting in there that I never knew about and thus never gave to anyone. I wonder if one of my Scout leaders was there at my Court of Honor hoping I'd give him the Mentor pin that I didn't know was there.

After the whole thing was over, when everyone was eating delicious Sam's Club cake, he came over to me and said, "Hey Smyth" and tossed the pin to me without really saying anything else. It was totally Alex. It was all that needed to be said. I wouldn't have expected anything else from him. At the same time, it just makes it all the more weird.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our Cookies

Last week we made some cookies at my ASM's house to bring to people who were helping with our camp fundraiser. His wife was listening to us make cookies in the kitchen and got worried that we were messing up the recipe. She came in when we were almost done with the first batch and gave us some pointers. She then proceeded to mix up the second batch of cookies for us.

It was her kitchen and recipe and ingredients. But it was our cookies. It's unfortunate when adults are so worried about the boys failing at something that they do it for them. The way I look at it, if we have to do it for them, we have failed.

By the way, both batches of cookies were delicious. Other than the different type of chips we mixed in the two batches, you couldn't tell the difference even though the first ones were mixed up wrong.