Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Day with the Scouts

I had a great day today.  It was a bit unexpected, but at some point, going with the unexpected always brings a bit of fun.

Last night my friends up here stopped in at the cabin and told me I should come out to their airfield today.  There would be over 200 boy scouts plus leaders there for a scouting Aviation Expo at the Webster City, Iowa Airport.  There would be air acrobatics, Ralph Storm (my friend here) would do a crop dusting demonstration (planning to soak the boys with water), a Black Hawk helicopter was coming in, possibly a balloon liftoff (it didn't happen - way too much wind), remote-controlled planes, rocket demonstrations ... on and on.  The boys could work on their aviation patch, there were flight simulators and classes on airplanes and navigation.  There were even some lessons on what is happening with experimental aircraft.

So, I got myself up earlier than normal on a Saturday and headed in to Webster City's airport.  I pretty much spent the day there, chatting with Sue and Ralph and their employees, meeting great people from around Iowa and watching young boys do their best to be cool and generally failing miserably.  What a riot.

I met Bill K. (yup, can't remember his last name) who told me about his scouting career.  He became an Eagle Scout in 1949 and has a really hard time with the fact that he is actually old enough to have any achievement in his life be a 50 year milestone.  He walks with a cane, but told me he's not fragile, just has a balance problem.  He never misses a scouting event and his troop is filled with young men who have multiple disabilities.  He's no longer the scout master, but is there for every single meeting and event.  His son is long since out of scouting, but he continues to participate.  We talked about how wonderful it is for one of the young men there with some serious special needs, has been abused by people around him and yet is with a group of boys who make it a safe place for him to experience life.

I met Emery, who is a district scouting commissioner.  He talked about his kids and his life and then we got to talking about handbell choirs.  He couldn't stay tonight because he needed to get home - his choir is playing tomorrow morning in church and he's responsible for some of the big bells.  He doesn't have the biggest, those are played by a much older man who has to take 3 days to recuperate after a performance, his arms just kill him.  His kids have all grown out of scouting, but he continues to support this because he loves how it impacts young men to make them better with each other and with the world.

There was a young boy there - maybe 11 or 12 - with many physical issues.  He can't eat certain things and believe it or not, this young boy was under a tent getting treated for something or other (splinters, falling smack down on the concrete, on and on) four different times.  He so badly wanted to cry and complain, but didn't because there were always boys around him helping him to buck up and face the rest of the day.  When he wanted to wander off, they wouldn't let him - everyone had to have a buddy and it was something they took seriously with him.  

I saw kids who are probably laughed at, ignored, considered outcasts, pitied, teased, bullied and picked on in normal situations at school participating with other kids who never face those issues.  Some of the klutziest kids ever would fall down and be surrounded by boys helping them back up.  Others who were obviously coddled mama's boys and wanted to just sit all the time and be catered to, were encouraged to participate and play along with the group by leaders and fellow scouts.

There were moms and dads, scout leaders, troop leaders, boys of many ages.  Each boy was different; some were tall, some were short, some were very small and some were large, some were athletic and some were so obviously not, some had special needs, some were social, some were loners.  But, all were boys and all were having fun.  They worked together within their troops and followed instructions from their leaders.

Today was a great day.  I got a little too much sun and wind, but I discovered why Bill and Emery (and many, many others) still dedicate a lot of time to scouting.  Hundreds of boys learn how to take care of themselves and others, learn how to interact with the world, experience things they would never be able to experience without the program and grow into men with a proud history as a foundation.  I had the best time today!!!