This is the thirteenth installment in a story that follows a new Scoutmaster, Chuck Grant, attempting to use the patrol method in a troop that has forgotten how.
I’ve based this work of fiction on the stories shared by readers and listeners, questions they have asked, and the advice I commonly share in reply. Scoutmasters can expect to encounter challenges and setbacks along the way.
I’ve tried to avoid being unreasonable optimistic, or overly pessimistic about the progress we can make when we stick to the basics.
The next evening Dave and I sat at the picnic table with Jason and Bob, John was speaking to Bob’s mother Cheryl, and Jason’s father was waiting nearby.
“The story I have,” I began, “is that you, Jason, punched Bob this weekend. Do I have that right?”
Jason looked at the ground; Bob was examining the backs of his hands.
“Jason, I need to hear from you.” I said.
“He was bossing me around, he hit me, and I didn’t like it.” Jason said.
“Is that true Bob?” I asked.
“He wasn’t listening to me,” Bob replied, “so I tapped him on the shoulder, and then he punched me.”
“Not ‘tapped’,” Jason said to Bob, “you hit me!”
“It was a tap,” Bob said looking at me, “I didn’t hit him.”
“Why didn’t you say anything to us this weekend?” Dave asked Bob.
“It wasn’t a big deal.” Bob said, “My mom saw the bruise when I got home and asked me how I got it.”
“That explains a lot.” I replied, “Obviously, Bob, this turned into a ‘big deal’. I am not saying you’re at fault, but we could have handled things better if we had known what was going on at the time.”
“Yeah,” Bob replied.
“So lesson learned,” I went on, “next time someone, anyone, throws a punch or hits a fellow Scout I need to know.”
“Got it,” Bob said.
“Okay,” I replied, “Bob let me and Mr. K take a little time to talk to Jason, can you go wait over there?” I asked.
As Bob got up, I turned to Dave, “Can you ask Jason’s father to join us?”
“Am I in trouble?” Jason asked.
“Well, let’s get your dad over here and we’ll all talk,” I said.
When Dave returned with Jason’s father, I went over what Bob had said.
“Jason tends to over-react when he gets upset,” his father said, “especially if he someone touches him. This is something we’ve been working on at School too; it’s all involved with his age and his autism.”
“Can you tell me a little more about that?” I asked.
Jason’s father went on to tell us that Jason had been diagnosed with mild autism in the second grade. While he was able to keep up with is peers academically Jason was having increasing difficulty with behavior after he entered the middle school a month ago.
“Am I in trouble?” Jason asked again.
“Well, you did hit another Scout,” I replied, “What do you think I ought to do about that?”
Jason looked away.
“Jason,” his father said, “Mr. Grant is trying to help you, can you answer his question?”
“What question?” Jason replied angrily.
“You hit another Scout, and you hurt him,” I repeated, “and I asked what you think I should do now.”
“I don’t like Scouts anymore.” Jason said.
“Well,” I replied, “do you think you should apologize to Bob?”
“He hit me first!” Jason said.
“I know that’s what it felt like,” I replied, “did Bob tell you he was sorry?”
“No he called me a swear after I punched him back,” Jason replied.
“Sounds like you were both angry,” I said, “we all get angry sometimes.”
Jason stared at the ground.
“Jason,” I asked, “how can we help you find better ways to behave in Scouts?”
“Sometimes everybody just needs to leave me alone,” he said, “sometimes I know when I have to stop, and I just can’t.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” I said, “let’s get Bob back here for a minute,”
When Bob returned to the table, I asked Jason and his father to talk to him about what we had discussed.
“So if you need to get away from everybody,” Bob asked, “we should just let you alone?”
“Yes,” Jason replied, “my counselor at school says if I get upset I should walk away till I feel better, it helps.”
“I understand that advice, Jason;” Dave said, “But we want to make sure everyone is safe. We can’t have Scouts running off alone, that’s why we have the buddy system.”
“Well, “I replied, “let’s be sure that we understand that, Bob, can you be Jason’s buddy?”
“I guess I can.” Bob replied.
“What I mean precisely, Bob,” I explained, “ Is you are a couple of years older than Jason, and as a patrol leader you can help him now that you understand more about what Jason is dealing with. We just have to have an understanding that you two stick together.”
“Yeah, I can do that.” Bob replied.
“That work for you guys?” I asked Jason and his father.
“Yes.” Jason said as his father nodded his head.
“So we are almost done,” I said, “I think you both got angry, you both acted out…”
“I just tapped him, though,” said Bob.
“What name did you call Jason after he punched you Bob?” I asked.
Bob looked away, “I guess I called him something.”
“So you both acted out,” I continued, “and I think all that’s left is for you to apologize to each other.”
Bob said, “Sorry Jason,” and reached out his hand.
Jason mumbled, “Sorry.” and shook Bob’s hand.
“Okay, Bob and Jason,” I said, “why don’t you head back to your patrol inside.”
So far so good, I hope!
Read the rest of the story in my new book: