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Off Topic: Lessons From Boy Scout Camp

I was lucky enough to accompany my son and 26 other scouts to scout camp this year. We started in Boston on July 4, and then we bussed up to Eddington, Maine to spend a week at Camp Roosevelt, a local boy scout camp.

I hesitate to call it a vacation, there were 200+ kids there after all, but it was a great experience that brought several lessons.



1. Know Your First Aid

In their advancement and merit badge work, these scouts spend a lot of time learning about various first aid topics. Fortunately, most of it is hypothetical.

But we had an incident that was a good reminder of why it’s important. As part of our day in Boston, our troop headed to Fenway Park and attended a Red Sox/Astros baseball game.

All was going well until a fan a few rows below us started screaming for help. One of our dads is a doctor, and he made his way down and discovered that the fan’s father didn’t have a pulse, likely having suffered a heart attack. The doctor/father and an EMT performed CPR, eventually saving the guy’s life.

This was a good reminder that the first aid these boys study is important. All of us should learn basic CPR, the Heimlich maneuver and other basic lifesaving skills.

2. Sharing/Working Together

This isn’t really a lesson, but a reminder. All week long, I watched kids help one another earn merit badges or learn new skills.

I’m biased, but perhaps my favorite story involved my son. He and three of our other boys took a merit badge class called Wilderness Survival.

The culmination of the Wilderness Survival merit badges required the boys to spend the night in the wilderness without tents, sleeping bags, or much other gear. All they were allowed to use was what they could fit in their pockets.

This experience was a great example of teamwork and sharing by my son. Working together, he and another boy in our troop built a pretty good shelter to protect them through the night. But my son was also more prepared than the other scout, having stuffed his pockets with an extra towel and his rain gear. As night fell and temperatures dropped, my son sacrificed his towel (used as a blanket) and his rain jacket to his friend so that the friend might stay a bit warmer during the cold night. As is often the case, I continue to be reminded by my kids about how we ought to sacrifice for one another.

3. Patience

I’ll admit that I’m a terrible fisherman. I don’t have a lot of experience fishing; I’m not good at fishing; I don’t really know what to do when I actually catch a fish; and I haven’t always been patient when I’m doing more fishing than catching. But my son took a fly fishing merit badge, and he loved it. We spent most afternoons on the “pond” (which was over 100 acres big) fly fishing — rather my son fished; I watched.   It was a lesson in patience, as I watched him struggle learning to cast that first afternoon. But by the end of the week, both he and I were getting the hang of it — him fishing, and me being patient.

4. Get Away From Electronics

I stressed out a lot before the trip about the prospect of not being connected to things back home — especially the office. And when we arrived, we did find that being out in the middle of nowhere really limited our connectivity. If you were standing on the right rock or around the right hill, you could get some service. But for most places, you were out of luck. And you know what? I survived. Not only that, but it was nice to not feel the pressure to check emails or texts. While I’m not going to go to the middle of nowhere back home, I am going to make an effort to put down the phone and not worry about being connected all the time.

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