A Scoutmaster's Duty

The Scoutmaster watched as his troop set up camp. It was a yearly tradition to go to a State Park for a week-long campout. They would work on their merit badges, swim and learn new skills.

It was a sacrifice that he was willing to make. He didn’t get much vacation time where he worked, and had to divide it with his family and the troop. What made it worthwhile was that his son was in the troop. It allowed him to have a little father-son time.

Now he listened to the friendly banter as the boys were putting up their tents. Each boy was paired with another and they were responsible for a minimum of two meals during the week. It was always interesting to see what they would come up with. As he watched, two boys approached him.

“Do you have any extra tent stakes?”

“I think so. Why?”

“We forgot ours,” came the reply.

“Didn’t you pack them with your tent?”

“We thought we did.”

“C’mon,” he motioned as he led them to the truck.

Past experiences had taught him to have extras of a lot of things. Tent stakes, rope, blankets, pillows, and mosquito repellent were just a few of the items he always had stashed away. Finding some, he gave them to the boys.

“Here, these will work. I want them back, please.”

“Yes, sir,” they yelled as they ran back to their tent.

Watching them, he shook his head and smiled. That pair was always forgetting something. What worried him the most was that they were paired together for meals.

The boys got their tents up and it was a troop effort to erect the large cooking and dining tent. Once up, the first pair of boys prepared their evening meal. They got a big pot of baked beans going, fried some hamburger, and mixed it into the beans. They had iced down a couple of watermelons and had a big box of chocolate chip cookies ready. That was supper.

After supper, they lit a large campfire and all of the scouts gathered around. It was a tradition that the first night was ghost story night. Every boy tried to top the previous boy’s story. He sat back and watched, chuckling to himself as the youngest scouts started looking behind them apprehensively as the fire cast spooky shadows. The older scouts knew what they were doing. They were enjoying themselves scaring the bejeebers out of the young ones. He knew that he would probably have a frightened boy visit him later.

As it got late the boys, one by one, headed off to bed until he was the only one still at the glowing embers. As expected, a boy crawled out of his tent and approached him. Recognizing one of the younger boys, he spoke.

“Bobby, are you ok?”

“I don’t know,“ he answered.

“What’s wrong? Can’t sleep?”

“I keep thinking about the “head in the sleeping bag” story Randy told. Gives me the creeps! Can I sit here with you for a while?”

Smiling, he answered, “Sure, I would welcome the company.”

Bobby sat down beside him and stared at the fire.

Watching him, the Scoutmaster spoke, “It was only a story. This happens every year. The older scouts try to scare the new ones. Your time will come when you will be telling ghost stories.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive. This is your first campout? Right?”

Bobby nodded yes.

“I’m glad you got to come. You’ll have fun.”

“I didn’t know if Mom would let me. My dad left and we’re alone. She is very protective concerning me. She heard all the rumors and they scare her,” answered Bobby.

“Here it comes,” he thought, “the rumors and accusations again!”

The Boy Scouts were in the middle of a scandal. There were reports of boys being molested by their Scoutmasters. Men who were supposed to be a father figure to the boys, someone they could trust and open up to without being afraid. Many of the boys came from a single-parent household and needed a man’s influence in their lives. That trust had been compromised by a handful of deviants.

“Bobby, do you trust me? Would you believe me if I told you the only thing I am interested in is your well-being?”

“I think so, I wouldn’t have come,” he answered, it’s my mom who needs convincing.”

“Bobby, sometimes a boy needs special attention. Something he can’t get from his mom. He needs someone he can share “man” things with. How to handle puberty, bullying, and even girls. Things he feels awkward talking about with his mom. Sometimes he just needs a hug, just a hug and nothing else. That’s where the malicious Scoutmasters have taken advantage. Bobby, all I offer is guidance and friendship. I am here whenever you need someone to talk to. Ok?”

Bobby looked at him with a tear in his eye.

“I miss my dad. We did everything together. Mom doesn’t understand,” he sobbed, “what do I do?”

“Want a hug?” he asked while extending his arms.

“Un Huh!” and Bobby fell into his arms.

The Scoutmaster silently prayed, “Father, let me be what Bobby needs. Show me how and what to do. Show him that he can trust me. Please, Father, please let me be what the boys need me to be. Let them trust me. Thank you, Father, for your love.”

He held Bobby in his arms for a few moments and released him.

“Off to bed! I believe you have kitchen duty in the morning.”

“Good night and thank you.”

“Good night, Bobby, and make sure you check your sleeping bag for that head!”

September 16, 2020