Friday, August 30, 2013

The Boy Scouts

While debates continue to rage in social media and across religious platforms about the correctness of allowing homosexual boys into the Boy Scouts, I find myself. . . .

Completely not understanding.  In several ways.

During my approximately 4 years in the Cub Scouts, I can’t recall a single time anyone asked me about my sexuality.  I can, however, recall times I was taunted and teased in school. I can, however, recall times I was bullied as a teenager out in public. 

But not once, not ever, can I recall a moment at the Cub Scouts where anyone said anything about sex or sexuality. 

So I’m thoroughly not understanding how or why anyone involved in leadership of a Boy Scout troop or den would be interested in the sexuality of a kid. 

And to take that one step further and look at it from the kid’s point of view – I see and understand in this day and age that teenagers are sometimes coming to terms with their own sexuality earlier. So maybe there are instances of high school age kids being open about their sexuality.  But that’s just life – teenagers evolve into sexual creatures. Ask any 17 year old.  But ask them how that could possibly impact their learning and participating in Boy Scouts?  I don’t understand how it can. 

To be a little bit humorous – to me the Scouting movement seems to have been an early front runner to surviving the zombie apocalypse.  They teach you how to build fires, how to tell where mold is growing on a tree, how to tie knots. 

Or in their own words, “For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.”  Who would want to deny that opportunity to any youth? Why would someone want to deny that opportunity to any youth?

One of my fondest sets of memories from the Cub Scouts involves the yearly trip out to Uncle Lawrence’s house with a small block of wood. Mom would visit Mrs. Juanita in the kitchen of the home Uncle Lawrence had built, on the farm land he owned.  And in the back in his shop, he would tool away to turn that block into something that resembled whatever Hot Wheels car that I was currently clutching in my hands. 

Now let’s put aside the question of my dubious morals that, in hindsight, seem questionable, since Uncle Lawrence did all the work.  And let’s set aside the fact that the only car I can clearly recall is a perfect rendition of the Batmobile.   In fact, let’s not set this aside and let’s freely admit that to this day I love the fact that I wanted a Batmobile pinewood derby car.  And that I loved Uncle Lawrence and still Mrs. Juanita, though in one way or another time separated us from both of them.  That’s life, change happens.  But the point is, Uncle Lawrence was happy to help (OK, make) my car. And in even that small way, he was another adult man who had a role in mentoring me that was brought on by the Boy Scouts.

I have an elementary school year picture where I was quite proud to wear my blue shirt and my bright yellow bandana with the little gold slider on it. 

Honestly, in a somber tone, I can look back and tell you that I was already acutely aware of something ‘different’ inside me, though it would be years before I could have really put it into words.  And I can tell you that certain challenges I had with my self-confidence were already in place by then.  I can’t say that, in my case, the Boy Scouts helped me to build self-confidence.  But I can tell you it didn’t hurt.  I can tell you that when I look back on after-school afternoons at the home of my friend Mark, whose mother was our Den Mother, I don’t cringe.  Certainly not like when I think about school days in Junior High.

If I try to imagine his Mother asking about sexuality, I just can’t picture it in my mind.  And do I think there might have been a few stereotypical hints available to her? Maybe.  Maybe not, I probably can’t give an objective opinion on it.  But I can’t imagine her ever being mean or cold hearted or turning away any kid who wanted to be in her Den.

If I try to imagine the boy that I was, and I try to imagine him being told that he can’t be in the Scouts because he’s gay, I cringe and cry for him.  Who would do that to any boy, to any kid, to any young man? 

Spoil Them

Recently I met a lady named Mary in passing and had a very casual conversation with her for several minutes. Mary is finishing up a successful battle with cancer, is twice widowed, smelled lightly of perfume and hair spray, and would be, I would guess, near 70 years of age in a very healthy frame of mind and body that seems closer to 60. 

During our encounter, she shared with me some highlights from her life, which included her second husband. Speaking about this gentleman made Mrs. Mary smile continuously, and her words about him were very generous.  Her words about her first husband were few by comparison.

The second gentleman had told her at some point in their marriage that he knew he would leave her widowed again.  I think she said his phrase was, "I'll go before you."  I don't know if he was a smoker, or read the actuary tables at his insurance agent's office, or just figured with his luck, he'd be the first to go.  But she had sort of put aside his worries and enjoyed the marriage.

She told me that once while she was still working, she had gone to lunch at a place she frequented and one waitress had chided Mary to another, "There's that lady that's being spoiled by her husband." And Mary replied, "Yes.  But you know what I've learned?  If you don't spoil back, they quit." 

And to that point, Mary said that she had spent the years of her marriage playing far more golf than she ever cared to.  But when the five years was over and her husband's words came true, she didn't regret a single day spent on the golf course.

Who among us doesn't like a little spoiling now and then?  Who among us doesn't like it when our other half remembers something we like, or does something nice for us?  To Mary's words, it's important to recognize when you've found a keeper, and the important part is to make yourself worth keeping, to spoil them back. Go play golf, go fishing, go to a show or a convention or an outing that's all about the other's enjoyment, and enjoy being with them.  It's not the same to say, "I don't care if you go." It's important to say, "I'll go with you.  I'll take you."

Find someone who spoils you.  And spoil them back.