“Becoming an Eagle Scout is just about the only thing you can put on your resume at age fifty that you did at age fourteen–and it still impresses.” – Randolph Frederick Pausch
“What important event occurred on this date in Boy Scout history?” was the question asked of my son last Monday evening; he had been participating in a Zoom call with four other adult leaders for his Eagle Board of Review. He was required to sit in a room by himself, a room with a door, and sit so the Board could see the closed door behind him. I hadn’t walked by the closed door once during the 45 minutes he was on the call; I was in my office working on a project.
I heard the door open. “Mom? Dad?” my son called out, “will you come here, please?”. He had been placed in the waiting room while he gathered his family.
My husband and I sat on either side of my son, looking at the Zoom screen: “Please wait, the meeting host will let you in soon,” the screen said; we waited patiently in the Zoom waiting room. I could hear my younger son upstairs on his Zoom call, the weekly troop meeting. I wished he was there with us, waiting as the minutes ticked away
The screen flashed, and then we were connected and could see the Advancement Chair as well as three other leaders. I looked at the face of the Advancement Chair; it was hard to read her face.
Introductions were made, as well as a quick explanation of our younger son’s absence.
“What important event occurred on this date in Boy Scout history?” the Advancement Chair asked my son. The question had come out of nowhere, her face serious. I looked down at the desktop, there was my son’s scout book, his campus, as well as pieces of rope, as my mind raced. What happened on this day in Boy Scout history? Was it the date the Boy Scouts were established? Did my son have any clue? I had no idea.
My mind raced, wondering if my son had ever studied the history of the Boy Scouts. I looked at him. I looked at my husband; he looked as puzzled as me. I held my breath and waited.
After a few seconds of silence, my son cleared his throat; “I don’t know,” he said honestly and clearly.
The solemn look on the Advancement Chair’s face slowly turned into a smile.
“May 18, 2020, is an important day in Boy Scout history because it is the day you became an Eagle Scout,” she said.
It took a second to register the three of us looking at each other and then at the panel; everyone was smiling. Each member of the panel congratulated my son as well as my husband and me.
After disconnecting from the Zoom call, my son went to the phone and called my dad.
“Hi Grandpa, it’s me,” he said, “Guess what? I am officially an Eagle Scout!” I could hear my father on the other end as he congratulated him and choked back tears.
The conversation continued for a few more minutes, my son grinning from ear to ear, walking back and forth in my office as he answered my father’s questions.
“I’m proud of you. I’m really proud of you,” I heard my father say as they wrapped up their conversation.
“I know, Grandpa. Thank you,” my son replied.
After disconnecting, my son went to the other room to grab his scout book, his compass, and his rope for demonstrating more than a dozen knots learned over the years. He came back into my office.
“Call Uncle Shaun, I’m sure he will want to know,” I said to him.
“Uncle Shaun?” I heard him say as he meandered up the stairs to his bedroom. “Guess what?” as he relayed the details to my brother.
As my son gave details to my brother about his Board of Review, I recalled the years of camping, hiking, and fundraising with his Cub Scout Pack, activities that carried over to Boy Scouts. I recalled various scouting activities with Troop 156, like planting flags at Golden Gate National Cemetery, and how the scouts helped the Eagle Scout candidates with their Eagle Scout Projects, and the Eagle Scouts who sit in the “Eagle’s Nest” for Troop Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremonies.
I replayed the Advancement Chair’s question about the “important event” that occurred. I had panicked, yet my son had remained calm. I thought about his accouterments – the book, the compass, and the rope that he had at the ready – “Be prepared,” the Boy Scout motto, came to mind.
Still, it wasn’t the motto, or his project, or the achievement or even the badge, that made me proud of him; it was the realization that the rank of Eagle Scout is not an award or an achievement, it is a testament to one’s character.