Stories From Unemployment 2

Image titled Grand Canyon backpack by Kevindooley.  Click on image to see more of his work.

Image titled "Grand Canyon backpack" by Kevindooley. Click on image to see more of his work.

It’s now a little over three weeks since the layoff.  The past week has been very busy and challenging, but also extremely rewarding.  One of the things this experience has taught me is that the rest of your life doesn’t end just because you lose your job.

For instance, our boy scout troop has a backpacking hike planned for tomorrow.  The boys plan to hike a few miles with full packs to prepare for a longer hike in May.  I’ll be sharing the following advice with them before we set out.  This “Scoutmaster’s Minute” obviously has broader applications to searching for a new job, or any other challenge that life may give you.

A Scoutmaster’s Minute On Hiking

As you set out on this hike, you have a choice to make: where are you going to focus your attention?

The reason why you hike is to reach a desired destination.  That’s the goal.  Having a goal is a good thing.  It gives you a direction and a purpose.  Reaching a goal, especially a challenging goal, is rewarding.  When we reach our goal this afternoon, what do you think will be our rewards?

With so many obvious rewards, it’s easy to see why so many people focus their attention on the goal.

But consider this: what is a hike?  A hike is actually a series of individual steps taken one after the other over time until the desired goal is achieved.  What many people fail to recognize is each one of those steps offers its own special reward, if you allow it.

This is something you can’t be taught from a book or from someone else telling you about it.  You have to experience it for yourself to understand.

Each step is an opportunity.  No two steps are exactly the same.  Each step is necessary to reach the goal.  And each step will reward you in its own unique way if you’re paying attention.

That’s the beauty and the challenge of hiking: you can focus on the goal and receive your reward at the end, or you can focus on each step, receiving each individual reward along the way, and also attain the extra reward of the goal as an extra benefit.  The choice is yours.

So where will you focus your attention?


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…

Prayers For Our Eagle Scout

Eagle picture courtesy

Eagle picture courtesy

Our son Brett just received his Eagle rank from the Boy Scouts in a very nice ceremony held this past Saturday.  For his Eagle project, he organized the writing and printing of a trail guide for the Flint Ridge State Memorial, documenting the history and significance of the site to the Native Americans and the early pioneers.  It was only natural that he wanted to hold his ceremony in the shelter house at there Flint Ridge.  The families of Troop 2, as well as friends and family members from four different states, all came together for a wonderful recognition ceremony.

The Master of Ceremonies for the event was my father, who had been my Scoutmaster, and who helped me to earn my Eagle rank back in 1979.  I’ve served as my boys’ scout leader for the past ten years; it’s my way of paying back my father by paying it forward to my sons and their friends. 

Only two out of every 100 boys who join Scouting will ever achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.  Brett was reminded, as was I in my time, that the Eagle trail never ends.  Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.  Others throughout your life will expect you to exemplify all the highest ideals of the Scouting program.  It’s inspiring to see your son step up to take on the challenge of living a worthy life.

Still, I was also reminded of our human nature during the weekend as well.  Carol and I grounded Brett a week ago and took away his video games because of his poor attitude at home.  There’s also no need for me to pretend that I always uphold the Scout Oath and Law every minute of my life.  We’re all human, and we all stumble and fall, Eagle Scouts included.  It has taken me a long time to realize we don’t need to be perfect, that it’s more important to simply keep trying – those 98% of boys who didn’t achieve their Eagle rank still benefited from their efforts in the program.

Gary Watson delivered the invocation and benediction to Brett’s Eagle ceremony this past weekend.  His words were powerful and touched me.  I’m ending this post by sharing them with you:


Most gracious heavenly Father, we come to you this day thanking you for your abundant blessings.  Lord we ask you to join us in this celebration of Brett attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.  Use this ceremony Lord to inspire vision and to encourage his troop to follow in the Eagle path.  Help us give well deserved praise and honor, and to also realize that becoming an Eagle Scout is not so much a destination, but a way of life.  We acknowledge your guidance in helping both boys and adults to work together to build leadership and appreciation of the outdoors, even when we were unaware of Your presence.  Lord, You forged the hills and mountains these young men have hiked and climbed.  Your hands formed the lakes and oceans we swam.  You know each animal and plant we have watched with wonder and awe.  You protected us from the elements, provided the food to cook and eat, and empowered the fires that warmed us.  You are the one who sharpens our minds every day to learn skills and facts, knots and first aid, how to lead and how to follow.  Lord, continue to watch over Brett as he grows into a young man and give the adults the patience and wisdom to guide Brett, as well as the other Eagles-to-be.  In your precious Son’s name we pray.  Amen.


We thank you, God, for the opportunity to come together as family, friends, leaders and fellow scouts on this significant day in Brett’s life.  We thank you God for your support of everyone who has helped guide Brett on his Eagle Trail.  We are grateful for the scouting experiences and opportunities that have led to this day.  Help Brett to live up to the honor, responsibility, and expectations that this Eagle award represents.  Help him wear this title with pride and distinction, as an example to others.  Help him Lord to fly in your presence with the wings of an eagle.  Brett, may you soar.  May God’s breath fill your wings and carry you to your destiny.  May you continue to grow in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man.  May you keep yourself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.  May you lead by influence and not by title alone.  May you lead with that delicate mix of humility, strength, example, and force.  May you build into the lives of other young men – future Eagles – for all of your days.  And…may the great Scoutmaster of all Scouts be with us until we meet again.