In Mr. Warner’s class I sat across from Sam and Gary. Both of them were in Boy Scouts. As I remember it they regaled me week after week with stories about hikes they took and adventures they had. It wasn’t long before I went home and asked my mom if I could join Boy Scouts with them. That journey would take me through high school and change the way I saw the world.
Mr. Lence pushed all of us toward leadership. This meant learning to speak publicly and to organize other scouts in activities and plan weekend camp-outs. I still remember him instructing us that when teaching or speaking one has to, “paint the cat black,” that is, to delineate the lessons clearly and visibly. Thus began my move up the ranks; leading meetings, planning camp-outs, making menus and motivating my fellow scouts to obey and chip-in as a team; a great experience for a shy, scared boy with low self-esteem. My character rounded there was one other place that Scouting got a hold of me. I went from crush and infatuation to a full on love for the outdoors.
Scouting took me around Catalina in canoe and down the Colorado by the same means; it took me through many canyons and up many peaks in the Sierra as well as into wilderness areas as far as Montana. I learned to carry a backpack and eat whatever was placed in front of me. Most of all I grew to enjoy and feel comfortable with myself in the outdoors.
Flash back to Mr. Warners’ class. Do you remember picking teams for sports in 5th grade? I was usually the last one picked as I was small with asthma and hardly the athletic type (though I made up for this lack of comfort at school on Boy Scout backpacking trips). One day I got talking to the other kid that nobody picked. His name was Keith. We grew to be close friends, then I grew close to his brother and his brothers’ circle of friends. Keith and I don’t talk much anymore but his brother Kevin and Kevins’ friend John were groomsmen in my wedding.
Forty years later and connections made in my 5th grade year still have a deep and rich affect on my life today. The friends I made then influence me today and rippled through my high school and college years into wider circles of friends and adventures emanating from those connections. In the same way those initial steps into Scouting were steps into manhood though it took me years to see it. Even as my love for the outdoors is richly embroidered into who I am so too those 5th grade experiences forever changed my life.