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Remaining trustworthy, per the Scout Law, can have drawbacks — Beer vs. Bread

Trustworthy: What the Scout Manual Didn’t Say

Grandpa's Eagle

by Greg I. Hamilton on January 31, 2010

2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s been a fascinating century for an organization that’s had its share of grief. Allegations of exclusion (it is a private organization after all), sexual misconduct scandals to rival the Catholic church, and of course that summer when the punks from Troop 316 shot water balloons at our camp’s first-ever female waterfront director. Yes, it’s somewhat amazing the BSA is still standing at attention one hundred years later.

I’d been thinking about how to salute the Boy Scouts this year, for I am indeed an Eagle Scout, and it finally dawned on me all of two days ago. I decided to write one blog a month on each of the twelve points of the Scout Law. As any Tenderfoot worth his merit badges should be able to recite, A Scout is:

and Reverent

It’s not insignificant that I’m writing “Trustworthy” with mere hours until I would miss my self-imposed deadline. If it weren’t for the last minute, there would be no trustworthiness in the world.

As a kid— in the thick of those scouting years— trustworthiness is easy to comprehend and not particularly difficult to abide by. Just do what you say you will do. Case in point, in the summer before my 18th birthday I committed to finally earn my Eagle Scout rank. There’s a strict rule surrounding that honor: miss your 18th birthday by even one minute and you can never become an Eagle.

The odd thing was that I’d reached the previous rank a full five years earlier. Talk about earning the skill award for procrastination. But actually it was more about a teenage would-be intellectual. I was a freckle-faced rebel without a clue. I started having misgivings about the scouting organization in some of those years and somehow I thought I was better than these arbitrary ranks that required adherence to stodgy oaths and requirements.

What turned me around and lit a fire under me for that final summer was a recollection of the 11 year old who had graduated from Cubs to Boy Scouts. Back then I’d told myself I would one day be an Eagle Scout, like my dad and my grandpa. And it was honoring that curly haired kid’s dream that saw me through the mad scramble to fill all those requirements in one busy summer before college.

What they didn’t tell us scouts in the manual was that in the grown-up world, while it’s really an indisputable virtue, trustworthiness can damn near kill you. In my workaholic days, I’d burn through 80 hour weeks and the occasional 20-hour workday just to deliver on my own overeager promises and the utterly impossible requests of others. Those seem to be fairly common characteristics of a business world that says you can find balance in your life when you’re dead.

But a little wordplay would have helped: being worthy of trust is not as heavy a shackle as flawlessly delivering on every promise, every polite request, and every asinine demand placed on the foolish young pawns of the work world.

What still works for me is making sure I’m worthy of the trust of a certain freckle-faced boy I once knew. When we earn the trust of the children we once were— well that’s someone a kid can look up to.

Thanks for reading. Cheers,

Photo by SteamboatDigs

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