No one disputes the benefits of Scouting. It builds character and develops leadership skills. That’s a fact! Testimonials to the impact of Scouting on young lives are abundant. Our sons will gladly tell you that without Scouting, they would not have battled raging white water rapids in an open raft, paddled a canoe on the C&O Canal, or shared a Shenandoah Trail campsite with a black bear. And if they’d waited for their parents to take them spelunking through dark wet caves, and rappelling down the face of a cliff, they’d still be waiting.
Unfortunately, we seldom hear about the impact of scouting on parents. I know of no better way to be involved in children’s lives than through scouting. My husband and I had always thought of ourselves as involved parents. Then, in 1972, our oldest son joined Troop 16, and we learned the real meaning of involvement. In no time we were committee members and merit badge counselors, and when our two younger sons joined Cub Pack 16, I was a den leader. Our family was embedded in a culture of hiking, camping, pinewood derbies, fruit sales and paper drives. Not to mention field trips, service projects, and sewing patches and badges on four uniforms.
While this might not sound like a good thing, we all survived. Whether we were struggling through a difficult project or rejoicing over the completion of a challenging merit badge, we worked together. And who could forget the Scouting expo where one son proudly served me peach cobbler that he had personally cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven over an open fire? And another son smiled down at me from a high ropes course that he had helped construct? Some things are better forgotten, of course, like the look of rapture on the face of our youngest who appeared before me with a python wrapped around his waist.
A couple of weeks ago, Mike invited the family to Orlando, Florida to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Eagle Scout. “A small, intimate affair,” he said, repeating what he had been told. Work schedules prevented some family members from attending, but Mike’s brother, Scott, and my husband and I headed to Orlando for the ‘small, intimate gathering.’
It seemed odd that we were being led into a hotel kitchen, but then these were the Scouts, after all. Maybe this was their idea of a small, intimate breakfast. After the last Scouting function I had attended, nothing would surprise me. We had been led into a vast arena filled with Boy Scouts, leaders, and guests who were awaiting the arrival of the ‘guest of honor.’ To the cheering of 80,000 people, a Caterpillar front-end loader crossed the arena and approached the enormous stage. The bucket was lowered, and out stepped Mike Rowe into the Jamboree spotlight.
When the time came, we were led from the kitchen into a room with 2000 Scout families, officials, and volunteers. Mike would be the recipient of the highest and most prestigious award in Scouting — the 2012 Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA.) The medal, hanging from a red, white, and blue ribbon, was placed around his neck, then Mr. Glenn Adams, president of DESA said some very nice things about our son and his accomplishments. In short, Mike received this award because he created and produced an Emmy-nominated series championing the American tradesperson and celebrating labor and hard work. And, for starting a foundation, mikeroweWORKS, that awards stipends and tools to trade school and technical college students.
In his acceptance speech, Mike spoke of his experiences in Scouting and recognized the service of volunteers. He introduced his younger brother, Scott, sitting beside his father, and teased that he had only made it to Star Scout and didn’t have any medals. Then Mike talked about that day his brother dove into deep water, pulled a drowning man to the surface, and resuscitated him. He spoke of Scott’s humility, and people applauded.
Mike fingered the award hanging around his neck. “There are medals, and then there is mettle,” he said, nodding toward his brother. As I watched my husband pat our son on the back, it occurred to me that Scouting continues to involve us in the lives of our children — in a very good way.
Then, of course, I teared up, because that’s what we mothers do when we’re proud.