(today's word is MERIT)
Monday afternoons, 4 pm, you’ll find me in my scout uniform trying to rope-in 8 nine year old boys with my friend, Kathryn Yearman. Kathryn, in a rather short period of time, has seen the best and worst of me, I’m afraid. It’s a good thing I don’t get any judgmental vibes from her or I’d be in serious emotional trouble.
One of the things I love about my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is our lay ministry. We are called by our ward leaders (a ward is like a parish) to various positions, serving each other. These callings come under divine guidance, we believe, and it is one of the great benefits of having joined the ranks of empty nesters to have served in a variety of callings in my life. My current calling is as a Bear Den Leader in the Cub Scouts. The church has a long standing relationship with the Boy Scouts of America, and where most other dens and troops have volunteer leaders who basically ask to serve, we sometimes get to answer the request to serve out of the blue. So I went from teaching the adult women of our ward in Relief Society, to serving as Bear Den Leader with Kathryn.
I have one son, and when he was scout age I was serving with the young women in our stake (a stake is a cluster of wards). So I never did learn much about scouting with Johnny. Poor Johnny, his mom was not the kind of mom who visited the scout shop. In fact, the first time I ever went to the scout store was two months ago, when I had to purchase a handbook, a manual, a shirt, neckerchief, and badges. The salesman had to look up what troop I was in. I am seriously scouting illiterate! At least I was. Now, I suspect, if you were to correlate scouting progress with school progress, I might be entering kindergarten. I’ve taken my online courses in safety and such, and I’ve skimmed the handbook, and I have semi-effectively participated in a couple months worth of den meetings. We’ve learned fire safety, how to make an escape plan in an emergency, how to write a polite thank you note, how to write a fluid personal story, how to bake and eat brownies, how to organize a game, and how to make a marshmallow cannon out of a balloon and a plastic cup.
When I bought my crisp new scout shirt it was just a chunk of khaki fabric with some red words embroidered on the chest. Made for a man, I al I spent two days hand stitching the badges in their dutiful places on that shirt. The tips of my right hand fingers drew blood in the process. Goodness, you’d think they could figure out how to make those badges more user friendly. None of my badges are merit badges, however. I don’t think so anyway, but like I said, I am sort of scouting illiterate. Still, the badges I have say something about me. You’ll know just by looking at my shirt that I am an official scouter, and I belong to the Great Salt Lake Council. My position is Bear Den Leader, and my scout troop is something like 4319.
My good son John received his Eagle Scout with nary a merit badge stitched to his sash, or whatever it is you call that bandalo thing. He wore a crisp white shirt with his scout neckerchief tied around his neck. It was ok with him. And it was ok with me. And, blessedly, it was ok with his scoutmaster. He knew, as I know, that the important part was not the badges anyway…it was the merit.