All scouts have the same sense of impending doom when they think of the dreaded Eagle Board of Review, the final examination before receiving the award that takes so much freaking time and effort. The grueling interrogation that only four percent of young men who join the program pass through. As a survivor, I compare the feeling of the steadily approaching review to the knowledge that you will have to run through a wall of flame to reach a final goal, knowing that even though it means success, it also means pain and will leave you a little shaken and singed.
And honestly, the gazes of the six die-hard scouting veterans did singe my eyebrows a bit.
I walked into the room terrified and furiously trying to remember my knots that I cram-studied and was stopped with a hand on my shoulder and the kind voice of my committee board chairman saying “Don’t worry. This is a celebration of your accomplishments.”
I felt my anxiety rush out of me and I spent the next hour in a conversation with six wise scouts talking about the things I’ve learned over the past years and trying to hold back my laughter.
The Board of Review was full of questions about what I had learned in the program about leadership and the qualities that are represented in the Scout Law (trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent) and how I plan to make the lives of others and myself better than they are, and I realized how much I truly did learn and how well prepared I actually was.
Scouts wasn’t easy and was not in any way my favorite activity during my childhood. I spent nights thinking I would wake up with frostbite on my toes and others laying in pools of rain, knowing I could do nothing to improve my situation. I furiously crumpled up my paperwork and threw it across the room when writing up my Eagle Project Final Report. But sitting in the Review and looking back, I realized how important those values were to me and how much scouting shaped my character. Those key points of the law reverberate through my life and I would frequently hear them in my head during moments when I was tempted not to be kind and not to be brave. Firstly because I knew that they were high standards to live by that would bring me happiness and secondly because I knew some 11 year old scouting radicals somewhere (we all know what I’m talking about) would mock me if they knew I was failing to live up to those standards.
The main benefit I’ve found from scouting has come from the confidence in myself that I’ve gained after completing something that not many have. I can do hard things. I can manage and organize a project and carry it through start to finish. I can try again when I fail. I can lead. I can take control of my life and adopt it as my new project to see succeed from start to finish.
I won’t miss the hard nights, I won’t miss the paperwork and I won’t miss the uniform.
But most of all, I won’t miss the things I’ve learned about myself and about who I want to be because those are the things I will never leave behind.
By: Bartel Van Oostendorp