Can I speak for just a few minutes to parents and grandparents in Scouting families?
I have a photo of an Eagle, a Cub Scout and his mom on my desk that reads: “This Cub Scout doesn’t have far to go to find a hero” (his mother). I have always loved how Scouting invites parents and other family members into the lives of their children in wonderful, supportive ways. Instead of being disciplinarians, parents (and grandparents) serve as merit badge counselors, Scoutmasters, troop and pack committee chairs, etc. This doesn’t include all the “unofficial” work in Scouting, such as providing transportation to monthly camps, summer camps and other activities, providing the all-important “two-deep leadership” role, as well as just being there to cheer on their Scouts. In fact, I don’t know any organization that more effectively involves parents and grandparents in such positive, active and supportive roles to help strengthen the young men and young women in their families.
With that in mind, I have been impressed over the years with the impact a parent or grandparent can have in the life of a child JUST BY BEING THERE – in other words, just by showing up! I know what it meant to me, as I was part of a square dance team in grade school, to have my father show up to support me. Of course, mother was always there as well. But generally, my dad was the only father in the audience. He didn’t make a big deal of it – he was just there! And I can’t tell you what that did to my confidence and feeling of self-worth to know my dad (and mother) cared enough to be there to support me. In fact, mother and dad taught me by their example that that was just what families do – support each other. That was why we traveled hundreds of miles from Boise, Idaho, to Provo, Utah, (over and over again) to support various family members in times of joy or sorrow, loss or victory.
I just saw this delightful photo of President and Sister Oaks with their grandson as he received his Eagle Scout Award recently. You can tell from the photo that not only did President and Sister Oaks (and another grandpa) show up – they were “all in” in their support and joy for their grandson and his accomplishment. I know a little about how busy President Oaks (himself an Eagle Scout and a Distinguished Eagle Scout) is and can guess what other things or events must have gone undone or unattended so he could support this grandson. And I can only imagine how much it meant to this new Eagle Scout to have this marvelous family support – and how much it will mean to him in the years to come to reflect on that special evening – and this marvelous photo.
In our special evening at Hale Centre Theatre in November 2019 to celebrate nearly 107 years of partnership between the BSA and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Ronald Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, an Eagle Scout and a longtime friend to Scouting, expressed the hope “…that my grandsons will also become Eagle Scouts.” I am hopeful that he will have the same opportunity that President and Sister Oaks had.
On the other hand, if busy parents convince themselves that it won’t matter if they miss a court of honor, I encourage them to rethink their priorities. When I was a Scoutmaster, I recall time after time a few of my Scouts trying to justify to me and to themselves why their parents seemed always to have an excuse for missing a court of honor. I will never, as long as I live, forget the look of disappointment in their eyes on those nights. The joy of receiving many merit badges, a rank advancement or other honors or awards pales with the blessing of having a parent at the court of honor to provide personal, loving support – to offer a handshake or a hug and to let that boy or girl know how proud they are of them and their accomplishments. I think there is never a more important time to “be there” than when a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter is on the “victor’s stand.” Over the years, I have found that it is nearly impossible to experience a fullness of joy alone – and that is what happens when a young man or young women receives an award or significant recognition without family support – it just takes something out of the experience for these great youth.
And this message is not just for parents, grandparents and other family members. I learned a great lesson on a home teaching visit nearly 40 years ago when we lived in Northern Virginia. My companion and I were home teaching a couple who were from the west and currently serving a mission in our area. As we concluded our visit, the husband said, “Thanks for keeping your visit short this evening. We need to get to the ward court of honor.” I was surprised, since I didn’t realize that they had any family ties that would take them to the court of honor. I responded, “I am going, too, but didn’t realize you were going. Do you have a grandson who is getting an award this evening?” They responded, “No, we just like to support the youth of the Church wherever we are.” Wow! What a vision! And what an application of President Uchtdorf’s encouragement to “lift where you stand.”
So, my message to parents and grandparents: never, never, never stop showing up; never cease loving; and never stop showing your children and grandchildren you love them by just being there!
And to leaders, never give up letting parents and grandparents and other family members know of upcoming courts of honor and other events needing parental involvement. Family members are, indeed, very busy – often with the activities of other children in the family or with jobs or community service. The more notice they are given and the more they know that their presence is important – the more likely they will be to show up. And they will never regret it!