On My Honor…The Boy Scout Oath Revisited
My son is a great Boy Scout. Truly – he was born for the organization. Not only does he love helping little old ladies across the street, but he’s really into camping, foraging and all that self-reliance stuff that Scouting teaches. He can start a campfire with two sticks and some dried leaves. He can catch fish without a fishing pole. He’s even pretty good at predicting the weather just by sort of sniffing the air and taking a good look around.
He’ll camp when it’s pouring rain. He’ll hike 8 miles with wet socks and bloody blisters on his feet. He’ll eat bugs if he has to.
I mean really, I wouldn’t bet against him in The Hunger Games.
His enthusiasm has gotten the whole family into the spirit, too. Even me. And my idea of roughing it is a log cabin, a roaring fire and gourmet snack food. I just hate not having a clean toilet. But I suck it up because I love everything Scouting teaches you about being a productive citizen – someone people want on their team. Scouting is like church that way. Occasionally, the organization makes a misstep – their anti-gay stance, for example – but overall, if you stick to Scouting and do it right, it makes you a better person.
So, it really meant something to us when my mother’s friend, Marie – a childhood friend from the old country who still lives in a village outside of Prague, Czech Republic – sent us her husband’s old Boy Scout belt from the 1940s. Marie’s husband, Kamil, had loved Scouting and was devastated when it was outlawed and replaced by its evil twin, the Soviet-styled Young Pioneers.
Kamil really wanted his belt to go to a Scout.
The Young Pioneers was like a bad knockoff in every way. Even its slogan, “Always Ready” was a cheap imitation of the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.” It always made me want to ask, “Ready for what?” Especially since the Young Pioneers (unlike Scouting) didn’t really endeavor to teach you anything.
While Scouts were taught to be proactive, self-reliant and skilled, Young Pioneers were forced to do everything en masse. My childhood pen pal once described how he and his fellow pioneers were taken to a lake for a “swim.” They were all tied together by rope and taken to the shallow end of the lake. There, the leaders instructed that at the count of three, they were to squat down once into the water and stand up again. Like a chain gang, they were then led out of the lake. Swim’s over!
Scouts vow to do their duty to “God and country” while the Young Pioneers, as instructed in the Young Pioneer Leader’s Handbook, are to assure that “every Pioneer would set up an atheist’s corner at home with anti-religious pictures, poems, and sayings.”
It’s almost funny. Sort of like what the Satanic Black Mass is to its Catholic counterpart.
It’s no wonder Marie’s husband, Kamil, held on to his Boy Scout belt all these years. It reminded him of a time when he was encouraged to do his best, try his hardest. When he came home covered head to foot in mud with scrapes and bruises and great stories to tell about his own heroic efforts.
Scouting is, after all, a hero’s journey.
And it just moves me to no end that Kamil passed his belt on to my son – even though he’d never met him. But he did know that my son adhered to the Scouting oath, which pledges that “On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” And that was all he needed to know, I guess.