Missed Opportunities

Scouts, what kind of opportunities were you looking for when you joined a scout troop? That’s easy! You were looking for fun. You may learn about a whole bunch of big, impressive words like Loyalty and Reverence and Honor and being Trustworthy. But you didn’t join for that. You joined for fun.

You wanted camping and swimming, and cooking over an open fire, and roasting marshmallows, and sleeping outside in tents. That’s what your expectations were. As leaders, we know that. But we hope that once we get you in uniform, other parts of the Scouting program will make an impact on your life as well as all the fun stuff.

As you grow and become more knowledgeable about the Scouting program, you will see some doors, opportunities if you will, that you might consider opening. There’s a door marked “Summer Camp”. Another door is marked “Photography Merit Badge”. Another door is marked “Knots.” Another door is marked “Orienteering.” As a matter of fact, there are hundreds of doors just waiting for you to open them and see what kind of opportunity is waiting there for you.

Do all scouts open the same doors? Nope. They don’t have to. They open the doors that spark their interest. The real objective, however, is to open doors that don’t spark your interest. The ones that you don’t know if you are going to like them or not. The real objective is to train yourself “to try”. Because you never know what unique opportunity you will miss if you fail to open that door.

As you work your way down the hall, opening doors and learning about what is inside and then coming on down the hall to open more doors, you begin to notice that there is one door at the end of the hall. All the doors seem to be leading to that door. On the door is a sign that says “Eagle Scout.”

Will you make it to that door? I didn’t. I was in Troop 26 when I was a Scout. I saw the door. I wanted to make it that far. I met Eagle Scouts in Troop 26 that I looked up to and wanted to be like. I looked up to Walmer Frank and Jim Goller and Don Shutters just like you guys look up to Don Hull and Bob Doby and James Foutch and Jesse Stallings. I promised myself that I would make it to that door. But I didn’t.

The two photos in this Scoutmaster’s Minute tell a story. I am in both photographs. One, the black and white one, is the first scout who joined the troop after I became Scoutmaster in 1969, earning his Eagle Scout Award. His name is Mark Herhold. He was one of the first ten Eagle Scouts in Troop 26 and earned his Eagle Scout award in the early 70’s. He is now living in Chicago with a great job and a wonderful family and a beautiful house. Why? Because he never missed opportunities. He tried his best to learn everything he could learn. He did that at Byrd Jr. High, he did that on my 7th grade football team, he did that at Memorial High School and OSU, and he continues to do that today. He went places and met people and he took advantage of opportunities. He saw the door marked Eagle Scout and he went in.

The color photo is the 515th Eagle Scout in Troop 26. He knows about opportunities too. He saw the door and he went in. Both young men are Eagle Scouts. Both are going places. I think I helped them both make it to that door. I hope I did. Consider this! Maybe, if I help enough boys to make it to that door marked Eagle Scout, that might be sort of like making it myself. Do you think that might be true?

The answer to that is “no.” I missed the opportunity. I had it. And I missed it. It doesn’t matter how long I remain a Scoutmaster and it doesn’t matter how many Eagle Scouts this troop produces. It doesn’t matter if there are 515 Troop 26 Eagle Scouts or 10,515. There could have been one more. Me. But it didn’t happen because I missed my opportunity. I can’t blame anyone but myself.

We talk about “taking a step towards the chairs.” The chairs we are talking about are the chairs placed in front of the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for the boys who are making Eagle Scout that night. Will you make it through the door? Will you make it to the chairs? Is one of those chairs waiting for you? Will you make the most of your opportunities in Scouting and in life?

And remember, there is one more door in that hallway. Scouts don’t like to think about it. That door is open. On the door is a sign that says “18 Years Old”. When that door closes, all the other doors lock. You’ll never be able to open them again. Never. And that will be a tragic missed opportunity. I missed my opportunity. Don’t miss yours.

And what about that door? If you go inside that door marked “Eagle Scout”, is that it? Nope. Then you find more doors. There is a door that says “Leadership Corp” on it. Another says “Philmont Scout Ranch” on it. Another says “Sommers Canoe Base”. Another says “Alaska.” Another says “Australia”. My advice to you is this. Make the most of your opportunities.

© Bill Shaffer 2003