On a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, I drove the scouts down to the airport so they could work on their Aviation merit badge. The boys each took a solo flight in a small Cessna 150m, even taking the controls for a few minutes. By all accounts, it was a great experience for each young man — something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
On the drive home I was having a great chat with the merit badge counselor, Jim Olsen. Jim is one of my neighbors and a long-time scouter. Jim has done it all in scouting — an Eagle scout as a young man, then on staff at summer camp as a youth; he’s been a scoutmaster, been to Woodbadge (with my Grandpa Cryer, even), and he’s been a professional scouter and been a big part of the Utah National Parks Council. He asked me how I was doing as a scoutmaster.
I told him that I was loving it. That after four-and-a-half years I was finally getting comfortable in my role. I explained that I loved having an excuse to go camping, backpacking, or hiking one weekend each month. I said I’d much rather be spending my volunteer hours being outdoors and having great experiences than stuck in a series of coordination meetings. I told him about the cool places we’ve been as a scout troop and about the physical and emotional growth that I get to witness in the young men who go out and do hard things. I told him that I love seeing the young men develop leadership skills and go on to do great things. I talked about how rewarding it was to interact with other guys like Jim who come work with the young men on a merit badge and I get to learn right along side them. I went on and on about how awesome it was to be the scoutmaster in our troop because of the other leaders I have around me to clear the way so I can simply go out and have fun with the scouts. I gushed.
Jim said that he’d talk to our bishop and tell him how great it was that he’s left me in there long enough to get to that point. Jim said that too often, scoutmasters aren’t in there long enough to become fully trained, much less get their programs to a point where it becomes fun.
The very next day, our bishop asked Manina and I to come talk to him. I thought it was just a check-in meeting — you know, just to see how things were going. He’s done it before just about every year to make sure we’re not getting burned out. Which I wasn’t. I was ready to tell the bishop the same things that I had just told my neighbor Jim.
But, I didn’t even get the chance. After sitting down the bishop started off with, “Well, it’s time to make a change in our scouting program and we feel it’s time to release you as a scoutmaster.” He told me I had done an excellent job, but it was time for a change.
I’m not criticizing how the bishop communicated this to me, because he did it as well as he possibly could have. But it was still a shock. I didn’t quite know what to say. I was not – still am not – ready to be done.
I’ve been in scouting for a very long time. I spent about 6 years as an assistant scoutmaster, and then I’ve been serving as the scoutmaster for the last 4.5 years. That’s over 10 years of scouting experience. Every Wednesday night, every Sunday, one weekend a month, one full week of scout camp each summer. That’s a lot of time.
I recently learned that my friend Mitch Ogden is taking over my role as scoutmaster. Mitch has been the assistant scoutmaster for a couple years and I’m confident he will do a great job. So, that will make the transition a little easier knowing the young men are in good hands.
But, I’m still not too happy about not being involved. Bittersweet is a pretty good word to describe how I feel about this change, but it’s not a perfect description. Definitely more on the bitter side than the sweet. I’ll miss it.