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Scouting: Time to Change My Mind

Scouting: Time to Change My Mind

Even sixteen years later, I still can’t think about the time I spent in Boy Scouts without my stomach knotting up.

For six years I was asked1 to spend one night a week with people I wasn’t terribly fond of, usually playing basketball, or pretending to plan a camping trip, while internally I was planning a way to get out of said camping trip. I’m sure to those involved I appeared sullen and angry, which was accurate, but pretty much only in that setting. People who knew me then know that I was really a pretty happy guy, overall.

So why this hatred for the ol’ BSA2 ? Anyone else who grew up not only knowing the word “bibliophile” but actively applying it to themselves already knows the answer to that question: bullies.

Yes, this was a church sponsored troop. Yes, we had leaders who were supposed to keep that sort of thing from happening. But more than once it was the leaders themselves who were the bullies.

I don’t think anyone involved actually thought of themselves as a bully. I’m sure they thought they were including me in their reindeer games, and it’s my fault that I didn’t understand how those games work. But on my end, the word “scouting” meant getting teased, hit, tormented and basically just having life suck a little more. More than one leader asked me if I wasn’t being “just a little over-sensitive” and assured me that it was “all in good fun”.

My parents probably didn’t know what was really going on, because naturally I didn’t tell them. Like any kid in that situation, I instinctively knew that getting parents involved would just make it worse. People would promise to be nice, and as soon as they thought they could get away with it, they would make my life worse than ever. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened the one time I did actively take a stand and flat-out refuse to go on a particular camping trip. After three or four people sat around and talked at me for a couple of hours I relented and drove up to the campground with a ┬áleader who spent the entire drive complaining about how I had made him miss all the fun. Once we were the there and the leaders were all in their tent my life became a world of all the best in boy-on-boy attacks that could be carried out silently.

Out of desperation my parents informed me that I wouldn’t get a driver’s license until I was an Eagle Scout. This was a good lesson in ineffective threats. I had no particular desire to drive, so I simply let my mom drive me where ever I wanted to go until I went on my mission. Even when I turned seventeen and they relented I refused to go to driver’s education or apply for a license. They made the rule, and they would have to live with it. As I was leaving on my mission someone asked me if I felt that scouting had prepared me for missionary service. At the time I said “not really” but years later I realized that what I really wanted to say was that I was still active in my faith not because of scouting, but in spite of it.

Bleh. All this is long past now. I’m all growed up, with kids o’ my own and a good job and a house and a beautiful wife and I’m livin’ the American Dream like nobody’s business.

So, naturally, I’ve been called3 to serve as a scout leader. Which means its time to try to let go of a lot of things.

I knew this day was coming. I knew it was coming because my wife bought a Suburban, and if you’re LDS and own a Suburban it’s only a matter of time before you’re given a scouting calling. They’re lowering me in gently; I’m starting as a Webelos leader, working with cub scouts (i.e. ten-year-old boys) instead of teenagers. And the world of scouting has improved significantly. The BSA has made a number of changes to ensure that the boys who are going through scouting today won’t be put through the misery I went through. The “Youth Protection Program” that all scout leaders must complete before they can work with the boys focuses on recognizing the signs of bullying and stopping it quickly. The hard part, in other words, won’t be the actual participation, it’ll be letting go of the anger and stress that have nothing to do with the people I’ll be working with now.

So, here’s to letting go. It’s not about me any more, it’s about making sure that the experience these kids have is a safe and happy one, and I can assure you that they’ll have at least one leader that has both eyes open, and will put a swift end to any bullying.

  1. see: “forced” []
  2. Boy Scouts of America []
  3. All Mormons who serve in any position are volunteers, but we don’t volunteer for specific jobs. We believe that local leadership is inspired to ask (or “call”) people to certain positions and we volunteer to serve in those positions []
My Not-Very-Guilty Not-Very-Secret

My Not-Very-Guilty Not-Very-Secret

I have a guilty secret that isn’t much of either. It’s a small thing, a kind of not-quite voyeurism that doesn’t involve seeing anyone doing anything, and It’s definitely okay, because Apple made it possible for me to do it, right?

Before I creep out anyone I actually like I should come clean. What I’m talking about here is looking at other people’s iTunes Libraries on campus.

It’s easy to set up. All you do is tell iTunes that you want other people to be able to see your library, and you’re on the air for any other iTunes user on your network. On the University of Utah’s secure “please use this network” wireless network this can be hundreds of people. Sometimes their iTunes libraries are called something like “Bob’s Music”, sometimes they put some work into it, like “Sounds like BURNING!” or the always popular “zzzze bottom of ze list”. The technology makes it “impossible”1 to keep the songs in other people’s libraries, but you can listen to them so long as the other person’s computer is on and they have iTunes open. Log in at the right time and there is a world of music out there for you to listen to.

Now the interesting part of this is that I’m not your typical college student. To be totally honest, I’m not a student of the University of Utah at all: I’m an employee.2 So you wouldn’t think that musically, I’d have all that much in common with the other libraries floating around out there. I certainly wouldn’t think so. I imagine them all full of Dave Matthews or the reprehensible John Meyer, with Fergie or whatever female soloist Clear Channel thinks we should all love these days. And sure, there’s some of that. But what I find most times is that people in general have much better taste in music than Clear Channel gives them credit for. I often find alternative artists that get zero radio time3, and just about every single library has “Abba Gold”. I can’t decide if that last point is a good thing or a bad thing, but hey, I’ve got it too, so it’s common ground.

What’s more, on libraries that are definitely the property of someone who is much younger than me I will find music from the 60’s, and not just the Beach Boys. Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Yardbirds, The Birds, and other good bands will be there, often right next to the Franz Ferdinand stuff. It’s kinda making me think I should be less judgmental. Just because someone listens to the terrible radio playlist bands of the present day doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate good music as well. Just because someone likes country doesn’t mean they don’t also like Miles Davis.

So anyway, my library is called “Where the Sunbeams End and the Starlights Begin”. Have a look around. And thanks for bolstering my faith in humanity.

  1. yeah right []
  2. although for some reason I’m also listed as an alumnus of the U, even though I’ve never been enrolled there []
  3. on a college campus! Imagine! []
The Valley

The Valley

My little sister Kadie had a baby yesterday. She is sweet, happy and brand new to the world and the apple of her parents’ and grandparents’ eyes. All is well, Mommy and Baby are healthy, Mommy and Daddy are tired, and generally a brand new little family has begun. The Miracle of Life really is a miracle. But here’s why:
Every new baby is brought out of the Valley of the Shadow Of Death.

Human design1 has us built so that it is just barely possible for babies to be born. The babies are just barely small enough, the mommies are just barely strong enough. In older days it was about 50-50 odds that you would lose the mother or the baby in the process. With today’s medicine2 we have gained significant ground, and our losses are much fewer. But it takes a team of three or four doctors and a similar number of nurses all working together to make it happen.

I’m the father of three, and those all three were born healthy and happy.3 But I’m grateful to my angel wife for agreeing to go through it to make our family the happy and wonderful family it is and I’m proud of Kadie for getting through it as well.

  1. intelligent or evolutionary or both. Not the point of this post []
  2. in America with the right insurance []
  3. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t scary! []