A Scout is Brave

A Scout can face danger although he is afraid.  He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.

~ Boy Scout Handbook, 11th Edition

I seldom do brave.

Even as a kid, when we are supposed to be All-Go-No-Quit, I often did. Fifth grade. I’m a chubby little Boy Scout, my balls smooshed by the harness the ROTC volunteer has strapped me in. The expression on my face vacillates between bravery and terror as I stand in the queue atop the retracted bleachers in the gymnasium of Bowling Green State University. One by one my peers summon the courage to lean back, trust the rope, and hop down the wall. Not me. I don’t do heights either, you may recall. I freeze. Refuse to lean back. To trust. My efforts have won me nothing but a lifetime of avoiding risk.

Danny Evans of DadGoneMad describes a similar experience in his memoir Rage Against the Meshugenah: Why It Takes Balls to Go Nuts. He and a couple of coworkers were once given the opportunity to go on a helicopter ride over Los Angeles. There were only two seats, however, and as he dawdled, trying to convince himself to go, the other two jumped at the chance. Evans writes, “It’s almost as though there were two parts of my brain fighting with each other. There was the part I had lived with since I was a little kid – the part that wanted to please everyone and stay within the safe zone. But there was a more mature version of me trying to take over, trying to live my life on my own terms, which meant pouncing on that opportunity to ride in that helicopter and just generally do what I wanted to do.” Though the specific reasons for our backing down may have been different, Evans and I are similar in that we both grew up spending a lot of time listening to the wrong part of our brain.

Not Beefcake.

There he is, getting his own ball-smooshing harness strapped on.

In a recent post, I wrote about the kindness my son Ethan displayed, while attending Boy Scout summer camp, toward a friend faced with a daunting task. And my blog-buddy Razz, always Johnny-on-the-spot with the keen observation, didn’t let me down: “As much as I liked the excellent writing and story, I couldn’t help but think about how many of us in later life become slaves to our comfort zones.”

Indeed.  It took bravery to sit down next to his friend when others stood by and snickered.  And it took bravery to climb that wall.

There he is, searching out the precarious path to the top. I’d like to say that he made it, but he didn’t. He hit a patch with few reliable anchors and decided to come back down. Unfazed, he decided to tackle the other side of the wall.

You can’t really see him all that well. You’ll have to take my word for it that he’s WAY the hell up there at the top. I get dizzy looking at this picture. Imagine how I felt standing at the bottom, watching him do something so brave. So NOT me.

I could make some shit up. About how this whole thing is a metaphor for life. How we take the path that seems right but often end up stuck on unsure footing. How in such times it is befitting to search for other paths that lead to the same destination. How bravery is a good thing.

But it’d be empty talk. Time for action . . .

[photo credit]


16 thoughts on “A Scout is Brave

  1. I’m so proud of the boy. More proud of you, though.

  2. Ethan’s a cool kid. Sounds like he’s teaching you some things. I like your last sentence. 🙂

  3. That’s awesome! How far up did you make it? Good for you, I am a creature of habit and comfort and need to get out of the zone. We can all learn things from our kids!

  4. just putting your hands and feet on the wall was probably most of the battle… way to go!

  5. I can totally understand why we fear things. It’s all about self preservation which has to be the prime motivator in our lives. I guess that’s where our parents and mentors come in. They show us and encourage us to step out of our comfort zones. I’m pretty sure that it’s these first few experiences of stepping out of our comfort zones that shape us for the rest of our lives and that’s why I think it’s so important that the trust is in capable and reliable hands. I think that scouts is great for helping kids get a bit more out of life.

    By the way, if it’s any comfort, I don’t like heights either. I still WON’T dive into water from any height higher than about 6 feet. But….. in my mid thirties met a bunch of people who rock climbed and I got into climbing. Thanks to my rock climbing experience, I’ve learnt how much more I’m capable than I thought. I also learned to control fear and not to panic. Rock climbing also put my fears into perspective and it broadened my understanding of what is what worth worrying about and what isn’t.

  6. OH! How fun! See I love this kind of stuff… I never really go out of my way to do it, but I’m not scared of if. In fact, I’m thinking I need to act on my thoughts more often!

    I love how in your posts I get meaning out of it… and I laugh! 🙂

  7. Ethan sounds like a great kid! I’m sure his friends know that.

    Good for you conquering your fears. I hope you had a good time climbing that wall. I’m also afraid, read terrified, of heights. So, I can relate.

    The one time I broke out of my comfort zone, I had the best time of my life. I would never get on an airplane, no way, no how. Then my mom said she wanted to go to Ireland to visit family and she wanted all her daughters to go with her. I dithered for awhile, but decided to go and get on that plane. It was the trip of a lifetime. I loved it and bonded closer to my mom and sisters.

    So, I guess, in a way, I climbed my rock wall, too.

  8. LMAO you said ball smooshing harness. I laughed, out loud

  9. michael.offworld August 12, 2009 — 11:26 am

    Awesome ending to this piece of writing and to the story. The style reflected the content and amplified it perfectly.

  10. So did you climb to the top? I’m proud of you for even trying. I’m not big on heights either, though I’ve gone in helicopters and also indoor rock climbing (made it to the top as well!). Isn’t it cool to see our kids being so brave? Liv can be chickenshit one minute and then bad ass the next. I can’t figure her out yet. Maybe she can’t figure herself out yet either. I actually prefer it when she’s chicken shit. At least then I know that she’s safe, you know?

  11. When I was a kid, I was fearless–could and would climb anything. Never fell.

    Today I have such strong agoraphobia that it is literally paralyzing. Cudos to you both!

  12. Good on him. I was a bit of a coward as a kid as well, and I hope that Zach can live free of a lot of those fears.

  13. One summer when I was a camp counselor, I ran the rock climbing program. I saw a lot of scouts and a lot of dads deal with that whole bravery thing. It was always rewarding to see somebody try something that they were scared to do, and then end up loving it.

  14. I love that you tried it too! And I’ll bet your son loved it too. Way to go dad!

  15. Dude! Awesome! Way to go, Beefcake and dad!

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