What is a good childhood? That is the question that came to mind as I thought about Graham’s achievement of the Eagle rank. Is it a big house, having the latest toys, and fun vacations? Is it schooling? What are the values that we are trying to transmit to these boys as they become men in the blink of an eye?
Graham joined scouting as a Tiger in Iowa in 2008. 60% of his life, Graham has been in Scouting. It has been an education that has been continuous and parallel to his formal schooling. It is the best we can do in 2017, because we still need to teach these boys life lessons without sending them to the market to sell socks like my grandfather had to do when his father died in debt with 6 siblings and bleak prospects. Graham doesn’t need to go out and sell socks, but he still gets to learn important principles. These values are codified in the oath.
Fun vacations, check -every year since first grade, Graham and I have slept in the woods somewhere in Iowa or in Ohio. One year, we even took his mother and Sam, and the whole troop helped one another set up tents in a wind storm blowing off Lake Erie after a two mile bike ride in the dark. That was the last time she went, but we both understand the value in these experiences in the cold, the wet, the uncomfortable. My favorite memory is a cub scout campout I did when Graham was 10 and Sam was 3. We had to hike with all of our gear three miles through a wooded trail, and everyone carried their load and myself thinking, what good boys I have, what greatness might await them.
The latest toys -Graham got a pocket knife at a young age, when hovering parents worry about their kids cutting their pancakes with blunt table knives. Graham understood the gravity of that privilege, and understood it to be a tool, one of many that took maturity and skill to be allowed to own. Graham got a two man tent and hiking boots that was his sole shelter for several years during Scout campouts -I remember finding him asleep in a puddle of cold water in it after they had set up in a downpour out at Wright Patterson. Despite the temptation of sleeping in the car, I joined him after drying him off. Graham got a flint that lets him start fires as our ancestors did a quarter million years ago, and let him cook chicken in cardboard boxes and buckets like a hobo king. That is a certain kind of victory not all parents get to have.
A big house? Graham has learned that anywhere he goes with his troop, the trees and sky overhead are the roof, and the fertile ground ‘neath his feet are his floor. The world is his house, and in this solar system, you can’t get a bigger house. He knows he can bed down for the night anywhere and can withstand discomfort with equanimity. He knows he shares this house with great friends and family. He knows that this house needs careful stewardship and is something to pass on to the next generation. He knows that filling this house with love is a good thing, something worth striving for.
What will Graham do, who will he become? That is a developing story, but it is with great security that I know that the Boy Scouts have prepared Graham for the next steps in his life. We love you Graham, and we are so very proud of you. Congratulations on your achievement.