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When did Boy Scouting stop being about the boys?



June 18, 2013
I remember my days in Scouting with a great deal of fondness and nostalgia. I also owe my life to Scouting.

That is why it is so saddening when the powers that be govern the Boy Scouts of America. We need to bring some sanity back to what is the best about America.

When I was just 4 years old, I met my first Boy Scout. I didn't know he was a Scout. I just knew Terry Rogers as one of the older kids on the block. We met face-to-face when I was lying flat on my back with blood spurting from an artery in my foot that I had severed.

Not looking before I leapt, I jumped over a neighbor's wall and landed on a broken milk bottle. I limped out to the street and hobbled home. I knocked on the front door of my house so that when my mother opened the door she found her youngest son who just minutes before had been splashing in a plastic wading pool in the backyard – and he was bleeding profusely.

My parents swept me up and placed me on their bed and wrapped a towel around my foot to try to staunch the bleeding. Later, I read what my mother said to a reporter who wrote the story of Hatcher's Great Adventure.

In a panic, she ran to the backdoor (why the backdoor instead of the front I'll never know, but it was critical for me) and screamed for help.

Terry just happened to be walking down the alley behind our house and ran over to see what he could do. I vaguely remember Terry standing at the edge of the bed and doing something while I lay there.

Later in the same newspaper story, I read that Terry had received his first-aid badge and knew to reach behind my knee and compress the femoral artery, which evidently slowed the bleeding until the ambulance arrived.

I remember the ride, with my mother riding beside me holding my hand. I remember getting a blood transfusion. What I didn't know then was what doctors said at the time. It was the immediate attention I received from little 12-year-old Terry that saved my life that summer afternoon in 1955.

Naturally, I wanted to be a Scout when I was old enough. I learned a lot of cool things when on overnight camping trips and enjoyed a lot of fellowship. I learned self-reliance as well.

And you know in all that time, I know no one asked me my sexual orientation. Certainly no one asked me if I was gay. In those days, I had absolutely no idea what that was except perhaps that you were always happy.

My parents surely didn't ask any such questions when Terry stepped between them and took my life in his hands.

So I am perplexed that this somehow is an issue all of a sudden. Maybe I missed that in the Scout Handbook, that there had been some qualifications that I was not aware of. In my day, Scouting was all about the boys.

Now it seems every organization has to have a position. I thought the BSA already had a position. All boys are welcome. That's it. No one asks religious affiliation, no one asks your race or country of origin. Just be a boy.

I don't see the need for the BSA leadership to change its policies one iota from my day. Keep it about the boys, and not some else's agenda. Scouting is so not about sexual orientation. It is about the boys. It is about instilling values of character, of self-reliance, of patriotism, of honor.

If Scouting can do all that – as it has the last 103 years – that should be a gracious plenty. There need not be this brouhaha over sexuality. Don't we bombard our kids enough already through the media with that?

Scouting should be a refuge from those pressures. Scouting should be about molding the individual character. It has never been about molding one's sexual orientation.

The BSA's policy should simply be we accept all boys. Once you go down that road of singling out groups – even to embrace them – you begin to build walls that were not there before.

Hand in hand with Scouting in raising boys to manhood have been our religious institutions. I think it is unfortunate that some feel called upon to take a side in the controversy. I can understand their position on homosexuality.

But I like to think they could simply accept all boys as boys. Leave the misguided leadership at BSA to try to distinguish among them who should be singled out as some kind of exception that needs to be made.

Most seem unwilling to be drawn into that tempest (in a teapot). The majority of those are taking the point of view that it is all about the boys – all of the boys.

I think that is the best path. Let it be for the boys and about the boys because they are just boys.

If your first reaction is, "Yes, but what about …" then you've missed the point.

Executive Editor, Appen Media.
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