A CAMPFIRE IN THE RAIN

Relaxing at Home!

I was reminded this past weekend of the difference between what I thought of as fun when I was a schoolboy, and what we consider enjoyable, or even tolerable, as adults.  Having built up a considerable fire at our campsite in beautiful Brazos Bend State Park, I was just beginning to look forward to consuming a delicious chicken and vegetable scout pack slow-cooked over hardwood coals when the sky unexpectedly opened up and a deluge ensued.  The grown-up in me reasoned, quite lucidly I thought, that it might indeed be time to pack it in, find a fast food outlet, and settle for, if not a gourmet then at least an indoor, dinner.  The adolescent that perpetually lurks deep in my psyche, however, had other ideas.  More about keeping fires burning in the rain momentarily.  Allow me first to highlight a few of the tangible and enduring benefits of scouting.

      First, and perhaps most impressively from my point of view at least, participation in scouting improves school performance.  In a recent Harris Interactive poll (which randomly surveyed 1524 adults and 1714 children from both public and private schools to assess the impact of scouting in a number of areas) twenty nine percent of individuals participating in scouting for five years or more categorized themselves as “mostly A” students, compared with 17% of those never involved.  Individuals not ever associated with scouting were, in contrast, three times as likely to report being “mostly B or C” students.  The survey also revealed that both high school and college graduation rates improve when boys have had at least some association with scouting.  The difference in college graduation rates was most telling; 35% of young men with five or more years of scouting experience graduated from college, compared to 19% of those who had not been scouts.  In purely financial terms, this amounts to a $20,000 per year boost in income, and a greater chance that the former scout will become at some point a homeowner. 

Moving past the simple economic impact of having been involved in scouting, however, are a number of less concrete, but no less important, advantages.  The survey indicated that participating in scouting increases self-confidence, as well as empathy and respect for others.  Scouts are also more physically fit, environmentally aware, and patriotic than their counterparts.  Just in case anyone concludes from this that scouting somehow gets in the way of other extracurricular activities for our boys, let me provide you with one last fact.  Adolescent boys and young men involved in scouting are also more likely than their non-scouting counterparts to participate in organized sports, any of the arts, hobbies, and school clubs. 

When I articulated to the assembled Cub and Boy Scouts my plan to protect and preserve our awesome one-match-for-the-entire-weekend fire, our boys (ages 10 to 14) happily took turns standing in the rain holding a multicolored golf umbrella over the rapidly declining blaze.  This both perplexed and amused their mother as she looked on from a nearby, and (it should be said) drier, location.  Yes, there is much more to the experience of scouting than building fires, and as adults we experience great difficulty in trying to understand the attraction of standing around and laughing giddily in the pouring rain.  Here, though, was the pure joy of scouting richly manifested on a soggy camping trip by four boys determinedly protecting a fire using a sunshade likely never intended for that purpose.  So I did what seemed logical at the time—I joined them in the rain.  Momentary comfort can be over-rated, but the unadulterated pleasure of keeping the scouting fire glowing amid the torrent of a storm (both the literal and figurative kinds of each) simply can’t be.

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