As I turned the corner at the top of the hill, I saw it, flapping in the breeze like a flag of surrender from my mailbox: the tall, white, kitchen garbage bag symbolic of all culminating scout projects.
I sighed. Again.
Untangling the drawstring from my red mailbox flag, I read the attached flier:
Hi, I’m John Jones and I’m working on my Eagle project! In order to get it I either need you to give me stuff that I can donate to the charity of my choice (the list of stuff I want is below) or you can give me money so that I can buy stuff to donate to the charity of my choice. The first one is better because then I won’t have to go to the store. I will come by on Saturday at 10:00 to get whichever one you pick. Then I’ll go deliver the stuff.
Sometimes the fliers also include:
You don’t know me, but I just live a few miles away, and I’m pretty sure that since you have such a big house, you can afford to sponsor my project.
Cause you wouldn’t want me to be a failure and end up on your street, just hanging out and vandalizing or something. Right?
As if passing off his Eagle is really high on my 2007 to-do list.
It kind of reminds me of the 4,000 times I’ve had a high schoolish age kid knock on my door and say, “Hi! I’m Fred and I’m trying to earn a trip to Europe and a free bike! If you’ll just buy 14 boxes of cards like your neighbors the, uh, the Johnsons…then I’ll be half way there.”
At which point I say, “I have a great idea! As soon as I can afford to take myself to Europe, I’ll start worrying about your trip. OK?”
Or maybe it reminds me of the 8,000 times a kid in public school has asked me to buy a $23 roll of wrapping paper so that the school can buy a dictionary or a heating unit.
At which point I say, “I have a great idea! As soon as I can afford to buy my own, homeschooled kids a dictionary, I’ll start worrying about your school supplies. OK?”
Or maybe not exactly ?but anyway, my boys are only six and three. I haven’t experienced the “joy” of scouting ?yet. But I have four girls older than them, three of whom have entered or completed the realm of Young Women Personal Progress. To get the award (which consists of a pendant and, sometimes, a stake program offering the award en masse) each girl does seven, distinct projects, centering on a value. Each project “should be a significant effort that will take at least ten hours to complete.”
In all my days serving in Young Women, raising daughters, and being in a ward with billions of other Young Women, never once have I been solicited for donations or labor toward a Young Women Recognition Award. Nor have my daughters ever passed out fliers and/or Sacrament Meeting program inserts to captive ward members, informing them how and when they needed to complete the requirements for their projects.
Last year, a great young man from my ward made homemade suckers. Himself. Not himself as in his mom. Himself as in his very own self. Then he rode his bike from door to door…himself. Not as in his mom drove him around in the van. As in under his very own two-legged power in a neighborhood that has lots of steep hills and houses that have five acres between them. He offered his suckers (for a very reasonable price) to his neighbors in the freezing wind. The money raised from this and other such efforts would be used to build a dugout at the local, community ball field.
The rarefied atmosphere of a scout actually doing some hard work…himself…was so hypnotic as to compel me to purchase at least two dozen suckers in all manner of shapes and flavors. It was thrilling and I anticipated a string of fine, bold boys, diligently earning their Eagle Scout Award and becoming men in the process.
But it didn’t catch on. A few days later the scout master came by my house to collect the “voluntary,” annual “Friends of Scouting” donation. I don’t have a scout and I don’t recall feeling chummy. Still, every year the scoutmaster comes by. And every year, as I stand in my very own foyer with him, I am suddenly thrust back in time to the Evangelical church in Boca Raton. My neighbor, Kathy, gave our family “free” tickets to the nativity pageant. We attended the fine program. Endured the call to get saved. And then watched as our pew was enveloped by men in festive sweaters holding out purple velvet bags for our “voluntary” donation to pay for the rental of the live donkeys and sheep on the stage. Ah, so this is what it meant to be “Friends of Kathy.”
So, back to the present, I write out the check amidst very Lemual-like murmuring and muttering, and put it in the scoutmaster’s virtual, velvet bag…just so I can get out of the “pew.”
A very short time later, the next Eagle project shopping list was taped on my door. Complete with a handy, dandy, tall, white, kitchen garbage bag to load up with the loot.
I can hardly wait for my boys to join!