New Orleans Trying to clean up the attic meant buying contractor bags. Building out the attic had been a construction project over years that I had finally finished in time for my son to make this his room for some years until he left home. He never quite got all of his stuff out and that was added to all of the valuable junk that heads for an attic because none of us can bear to make a decision about what should really happen to the old jacket, the broken chair, the this and that.
Out of ten bags going to Goodwill and Bridge House, I salvaged a bathing suit and a belt, he might still want. I also kept a hooded sweatshirt he had abandoned that still might fit me that was emblazoned with Troop 150 Boy Scouts of America that he had taken to scores of camping trips during the year and what they called “super-trips” in the summer. We matched the money he was required to raise, and he went to trips in Colorado, on the train to Chicago and then Montana, and the Tennessee Smokey Mountains. His stints as quartermaster for his troop still make him the chief supply and storage man when we’re in the trailer in Wyoming or on any family trips.
I saw pictures of my brother and me as scouts all forty times I did Q&A’s for “The Organizer” last year. Camping and the skills I learned in the scouts have stayed with me for a lifetime. Being Eagle Scouts meant something to me, my son, and my brother.
Where in the Boy Scout handbook would I find filing for bankruptcy as the way to handle responsibilities for abuse of some boys by their scoutmasters or adult leaders? Is that trustworthy? Where in the pledge would I find the Boy Scouts in the middle of the culture wars, dithering rather than unable to be honest with their sponsors about not discriminating against boys of any shape, size or orientation? You see where I’m going with this?
The Scouts are losing members like so many other institutions that might have seemed ageless in the past whether unions or the churches or other “clubs” like 4-H and Rotary. Their membership has dropped 12% from 2012 to 2017, but they still have 2.3 million members, which is nothing shabby. With some controversy and current litigation, they picked up 70,000 girls when they opened their doors to women, which, frankly, I thought was a good thing, especially in these days and times when it is ever more important to build – and improve – the character of young men.
The Wall Street Journal reports the Scouts claim assets of $1.5 billion with over $800 million in stocks, bonds, and other investments along with almost $500 million in land and buildings including the incomparable Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. They have some financial issues certainly, that might teach them some lessons for the future.
What happened to “be prepared.” If they have some liabilities coming, they have the money it would seem to handle them fairly. If they have some problems with the Girl Scouts, maybe they should start talking about a merger rather than a competition.
These are new days, but old values have meanings as well. If the Scouts are going to continue to be relevant and occupy a special place in the future like they do for some of our memories of the past, then the Scouts should consult the oath first, and the lawyers last.