One of the more common emails I receive concerns the frustrations of Scoutmaster’s who are faced with a boy they just don’t consider has done enough, cares enough or is good enough to become an Eagle Scout. They want to know what to do.
There’s a big gap between my idealized Eagle Scout and what’s required to earn the rank. I realized this after twenty or thirty of my Scouts earned Eagle and none of them perfectly matched my expectations. The next twenty or thirty haven’t either. So it goes.
In the end my expectations (and yours too) are unimportant. When a Scout meets the requirements he is an Eagle Scout. Each does it in their own way, on their own terms. Some are terrifically frustrating and nonchalant about the way their selfishness affects other people but they somehow complete the requirements anyway.
Scouters argue constantly over what constitutes an Eagle Scout, how we want them to act and what qualities we expect of them. Official literature is relatively silent on these things because each individual is evaluated on his own merits, abilities, and interests rather than against every other Eagle Scout or some idealized concept of what they ought to be.
Of course we want representatives of this honored fraternity to be of unimpeachable character, tremendous resourcefulness and exemplary citizenship. We cannot see into their hearts and minds, we can’t compare their will and courage against others; each has their own individual challenges to overcome.
Old men get cranky and stodgy – we live with our own failures every day and it’s infuriating to see others repeat them. We forget how we were when we were young, how little we knew, how selfish we were. Even if we possess this knowledge of ourselves we still want a young man a third or half our age and experience to be better than we were – that’s a frustrating way to be.
Most Scouts who have achieved Eagle in my tenure have gone on to be good solid citizens; college professors, lawyers, wonderful fathers and husbands, doctors, military officers and other similarly respectable achievements. A few have had trouble with the law, dropped out of school and become troublesome. What they have in common is an opportunity to make something of themselves that relatively few boys will experience. Each has many years of challenges ahead, their stories are unwritten.
You and I have little control over who they will become. We can only present them with an opportunity to make good. What they do with this opportunity is up to them.
There’s one set of requirements and, while you can take what some consider short cuts and half measures to fulfill them, the important thing is that they get there. They have the rest of their lives to consider how they did it; what they are proud of and what they they could have done better.
They need what we all need; at least one person who believes in them. One person who is unfailingly encouraging and supportive. Hopefully we can be that person.