What You Expect Is What You Get

The program exists for the scouts.

It was our annual fall camporee this past weekend, and I’m pleased to report that it went well.  Actually, to be more correct, I should say the boy scouts and adult leaders that I talked to feel the camporee was an improvement over previous years’ events, but that opinion isn’t universally accepted.  Here’s what I mean:

For the past several years, our scout district has held our fall camporee in conjunction with the Apple Butter Day event at Camp Falling Rock in Newark, OH.  Apple Butter Day is a day-long cub scout event put on by the Falling Rock Properties Committee.  The cubs get to shoot bb guns and bows & arrows, throw tomahawks, brand wood, make rope, press fresh apple cider, and generally enjoy the outdoor setting of the camp.  The proceeds from the event in turn benefit the properties committee; it’s their big fund-raiser for the year.

Since Falling Rock is located in Licking District, the scout troops of our district are asked each year to help support the event.  While the scouts are certainly willing to help, the property committee, a group made up almost exclusively of very long-tenured scout leaders (read good-ol’-boy’s network) hasn’t been very good at planning the event or communicating their needs to the scout troops.  They’re used to simply showing up and taking care of things just as they’ve always done, and they expect the scout troops to do the same.

Last year, three troops showed up planning to do the exact same type of demonstration.  Also, several troops reserved campsites only to find their sites had been double-booked due to poor communication between the committee and the council.  My troop was discouraged and frankly tired of the yearly ritual of playing baby sitter to the cub scouts.  The boys were actively talking about not attending future Apple Butter Days.  In the hopes of making things better, I volunteered to work with another scoutmaster to plan a more boy scout friendly fall camporee. 

We devised a plan we thought would support Apple Butter Days plus challenge the boy scouts.  Half the scouts would man the Apple Butter Day stations to support the visiting cub scouts and their families during the morning while the other half would participate in a new Scout Games competition, testing their emergency preparedness skills.  In the afternoon, the two scout groups would switch positions giving everyone the opportunity to provide service to others for half a day and to compete for prizes and recognition the other half of the day.  Add a camp fire Saturday evening and a scout service Sunday morning and you’ve got a winner.  Or at least that’s what Mike and I thought. 

Our proposal was not well received by the properties committee.  They didn’t understand why we needed to change – the boy scouts are going to quit coming otherwise and you won’t have an Apple Butter Days.  They didn’t understand why we wanted to divide our scouts to work the Apple Butter Day sites more effectively – it’ll reduce wait time for the cubs and their families and increase attendance in the future.  They had a million objections to the way we proposed to run the event, but no suggestions for improvements.  Mike was a real trooper trying to sway the opinion of the primary stake holders on the committee, but he ultimately wasn’t successful.

Long story short: we went ahead with our plans camporee plans over the objections of the committee.  I arrived Friday evening at camp feeling like a number of people were rooting for us to fail.  To make matters worse, I didn’t feel like I was as prepared as I needed to be. 

“Well Lord, I’m stepping off the cliff.  Please grow me some wings on the way down,” I prayed.

“This is either going to be great, or it’s really going to suck,” I told the adult leaders in our leader’s meeting Friday evening.  “It all depends on whether you’ll volunteer to help us or not.”  We had just enough volunteers to get all the jobs done, both up top for the cubs and down below for the scouts.

At the end of the day, one of the new scoutmasters thanked me for the great weekend.  “It really helps having others put together a planned event like this,” he said.

But I also heard second-hand that one of the property committee members said the weekend was a total failure and we wouldn’t be doing it again next year.

In the past, that one negative comment would have ruined the whole event for me.  One hundred compliments could be completely offset by just one negative comment.  This time however, I was granted the space and the grace to see that negative comment for what it was: that person’s mind was made up long before we even arrived for the weekend.  “Don’t confuse me with the facts!  I know the weekend will be a disaster.”

The experience of the camporee gave me an interesting perspective on the presidential election.  History was made Tuesday night: for the first time we have an African American president-elect.  Some of Obama’s supporters took to the streets in celebration; they’re anticipating change and a brighter future. 

And what of McCain’s supporters?  What do they feel the future holds?  The intense emotion and negativity of the presidential campaign bodes poorly for their expectations of a bright future.

As for me, my expectations were fully realized Wednesday morning: everybody I polled at work was still putting their pants on one leg at a time.  That the major news agencies were all fairly quiet all day since their reporters had all been up late covering the election was an added plus…

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