Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Thanks, Todd Bussey

I’ve shared this story on several occasions in several different ways. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it here. Todd Bussey might be tired of it. But I’m not. And I’ve decided that it is altogether fitting to share it today as we wish Todd countless blessings as he begins the next chapter of his ministry life.
Todd Bussey with me before my wedding, 1998

There I was –

some 40 feet in the air. A helmet was strapped to my head. A harness was firmly fastened around my body. I was safe. But I was stuck. I wasn’t going anywhere.
It was one of my first years as a Boy Scout and we were participating in the high ropes team building course the National Boy Scout Museum in Murray, Kentucky. The climax of the afternoon was climbing a giant tower and then walking across a high wire from one tower to another. I could choose to take one of thee routes to this second tower. I chose the path that was most difficult.
Of course I did. I had to look cool in front of my friends, didn’t I?

I chose the path called The Hourglass.

The Hourglass is made up of a single wire to walk on a wire to hold onto. As you’re walking across the wire that’s suspended among the treetops, the wire that you’re holding onto is gradually sloping downward. Once you’re in the middle of the path, the wire that you’re holding onto has descended enough that it is actually attached to the foot wire.
How high did I say this course was? Forty feet? Felt like 75.
So there I was, 125 feet in the air, squatting down on a wire, holding on to another wire for dear life. Behind me was another wire that was attached to the wire at my feet. That second wire slopes upward and leads to the second tower at the end of the course.
There was a trick. One I didn’t expect. There, in the middle of the course, 235 feet in the air, I had to let go of the wire in order to adequately turn my body and grab hold of the other wire and make my way toward safety.

 Let go.

My head knew what I needed to do. I think my heart even knew. But my body? Not so much.
Let go?
That was crazy talk. I was hanging 376 feet in the air. That cord at my feet was my only lifeline. And I was supposed to let go? There was no way I was letting go of that wire.
So I squeezed harder. My knees started to shake. The wire I was standing on started to sway. Sweat ran down my brow and started to sting my eyes. I was in bad shape. Things were looking bleak.
I was certain I was going to die up there. I just wasn’t sure how. Maybe I would shrivel up and die from dehydration. Or maybe I would just shake myself into oblivion. Or maybe my safety harness would wear out and I would tumble 563 feet to my doom.

So I stayed there and waited for my certain death. At least I had my safety helmet on, so when I finally fell to oblivion, the staff could sweep up all of the pieces into my helmet, wrap it up, slap a sticker on it and send me home on my way.

Friends down below were shouting encouragement. “Just let go with one hand! Everything will be OK!”

Of course, every time I tried that, the tightrope would shake. I’d panic. And then I’d find myself gripping the wire even tighter.

After an eternity, which was probably no more than five or six minutes in realtime, something unexpected happened. I heard a familiar voice from the tower.

“Matt,” the voice said. “I’m coming to you. We’re going to finish this together.”

It was Todd Bussey, my youth minister. He had come with our Troop on this camping trip, and had already taken his turn on the high ropes course. He had strapped on the safety equipment and was already making his way towards me on a nearby obstacle.

It only took a few seconds after he came out to me. He calmed me down. He coached me through the next steps and encouraged me as I let go of the wire and grabbed the other one. The rest was a piece of cake.

I survived the Hourglass. And I owe it all to Todd Bussey.

Todd is wrapping up a ministry at my home church that began back in the 1980s. He’s moving his family to Florida to write a new chapter of ministry with some new church work.

I know.

Florida.

Tough life, huh?

But he’s going to help turn the region upside down. Perhaps he’ll even shock the world. Because that’s what Todd does. It’s what he’s always done.

Todd Bussey at the Welcome Back sign at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990

Todd baptized me. He co-officiated my wedding. He ordained me. And if something unfortunate were to happen in the near future, I hope he’ll bury me, too.  We went on our first Philmont trek together. And he coached me through some important merit badges in Scouting, including Communication and Citizenship in the Nation. Of course, he was also a spiritual mentor of mine. We have some pretty great memories from five Summers in the Son together. Oh, and we were the Summer in the Son volleyball champions of 1990, even though we were the clear underdogs. And he even introduced me to A-180/Audio Adrenaline.

His story has been wrapped into my story for the past 30 years.

And I share this story about the high ropes course because it’s a nice little illustration of what he has done for me over and over and over again.

As a ministry coach, a spiritual advisor, a pastor, and a friend, Todd has always been there for me. He was there when my dad had a heart attack. He was there when I needed a listening ear after I left my first professional ministry. And he helped guide me through preparing for my first funeral as a preacher.

Just like when he was there for me 722 feet in the air, I have always been able to count on Todd Bussey to be there for me. And I know there are many other people who feel the same way.

This leaves a large hole in my home church’s leadership. Shoot, it leaves a large hole in the entire Tri-State area. But Evansville’s loss is going to be Jacksonville’s gain.

This most definitely is not goodbye, it’s “see you later.” In Florida. I can’t wait to see how God uses Him in this new chapter!

Thank you, Phil Gerhart. I’ll see you over the next ridge.

Mr. Gerhart and Crew on top of Tooth of TIme 1994I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the influence of Mr. Gerhart.* As my Scoutmaster, he invested his time and energy into young men like me. He showed us how to be servant leaders. If you look at the numbers, they speak for themselves. During his tenure as Scoutmaster of two different troops (Troop 412 and Troop 322), he saw 87 different young men achieve the rank of Eagle Scout (my brother and I are just two of those 87).  When you consider that only a small percentage of Scouts ever reach this rank, it is clear that he influenced several hundred young men over the years.

He saw something in me that many did not. For a variety of reasons, I did not reach my academic potential in middle school and high school. So I was not considered a good candidate for many leadership positions or leadership-related scholarships.**  But Mr. Gerhart saw something in me. He took me under his wing and showed me the true nature of a servant leader. Here are few examples of when he challenged me to grow as a leader and celebrated my successes…

“Matt, Jarod, remember this when you’re working here.”

Philmont Crew, 1990

During my first trek at Philmont Scout Ranch, we were met on the trail by one of our Troop’s graduates. He was on staff at Philmont that year, and we thought that was pretty cool. We’d spent a few days on the trail and we had grown tired of the re-hydrated dehydrated trail food that served as breakfast and dinner. All of a sudden, a watermelon appeared, courtesy of our friend the Phil-staffer.

Now, I’m not much of a watermelon fan, but this was the best tasting watermelon I’d ever had. It was like it had been picked from Heaven’s garden itself. It was a perfect setting. We were hot, sweaty, and dirty. And we were sprawled out in a small meadow in the middle of the Sangre de Christo Mountains in New Mexico, sharing slices of watermelon.

It really doesn’t get much better than that, friends.

Out of the bue, Mr. Gerhart looks my way and instructs me and my friend Jarod: “Don’t forget this when you’re working here.”

I was but a lowly underclassman in high school at the time. The thought of even attempting to get a job at Philmont was the furthest from my mind. But Mr. Gerhart planted a seed. And that was the first time I ever thought about spending a summer out at Philmont. At that point, it was nothing more than a pie in the sky pipe dream. But he planted the seed.

Fast forward…

Years later when I was working at Beaubien Camp at Philmont in 1995, I made a concerted effort to get my hands on a watermelon. My home crew, including my Dad and Mr. Gerhart, was due to arrive at my camp in a few days. I was almost frantic. I had to have a watermelon.

Alas, it was not meant to be. There was no watermelon available from the camp commissary. So I did the next best thing I could think of: I baked a chocolate cake for them. And I completed the challenge that I had accepted in that meadow several years prior.

As a mentor, you challenge. You inspire. And you might even plant seeds of a dream that won’t come true for several years. You keep the big picture in mind and play the long game.

He grew leaders

In our Scouting experience, Mr. Gerhart helped create an atmosphere where young leaders could celebrate their successes and learn from their failures in a safe environment. He equipped us with the tools necessary to become strong servant leaders. Then he challenged us by expecting us to follow-through.

Here’s what I mean…

Our Scouting calendar basically followed the school calendar. It began in September and ended in July/August, with Summer Camp and the subsequent Court of Honor serving as a transition time from one set of leaders to the next. Sometime during this transition (I don’t remember when – probably in June), the new leadership team, consisting of the Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Leadership Corps (older Scouts who were mentors without official leadership titles) would gather together to plan out the next year’s monthly themes and campouts.

Mr. Gerhart would set some parameters, like some non negotiable event dates. Then he would leave the room. The Senior Patrol Leader, as the youth leader of the Troop, was left to run the brainstorming session and the actual planning. An hour or so later, Mr. Gerhart would come back into the room, fully expecting a cogent plan for the rest of the Scouting year.

He could do this because he had equipped us. He empowered us. And he released us to do exactly what was expected. That’s what leaders do. They don’t manage. And they certainly don’t micromanage. They lead. Sometimes, that means they get out of the way.

And that requires trust.

Don’t get me wrong. There were times when I did some pretty boneheaded things. Like my “ax-ident.” But Mr. Gerhart expected me to learn from my experiences. And that helped us trust each other even more.

Mr. Gerhart showed me he trusted my leadership abilities during a time of crisis. It was during the Summer Camp when I served as Senior Patrol Leader. It was my last hurrah in that position, as the Senior Patrol Leader passes the baton in a peaceful transfer of power to the upcoming Senior Patrol Leader during the final moments of Camp.

Before that happened, we had to deal with a crisis.

A young Scout had mistreated an animal in front of the rest of the patrol. It was cruel and uncalled for and a clear violation of Scout rules – including the parts of the Scout Law that say a Scout is kind and a Scout is reverent.

In my Scouting experience, no one had ever done anything like this before. We were in uncharted territory. But Mr. Gerhart had faith in us. He told me to gather up the Leadership Corps and come up with a proper punishment. And he would help us carry out whatever punishment we deemed fit.

It was much like the planning meetings we had, except this had a much more heavy feel to it. Mr. Gerhart showed us that he trusted us by leaving in the cabin to brainstorm, deliberate, and come up with a plan. It was kind of like a final exam. And our teacher had prepared us in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

When we reached an agreement, we shared our conclusion with Mr. Gerhart. He agreed with our decision. And in what was probably the second-most difficult leadership moments of my life up to that point (the first was when I was called out on a mountainside in New Mexico), Mr. Gerhart sat behind me in support as I issued our team’s decision to the Young Scout.

Our decision was bold, but fair. I think it included a loss of rank and maybe a certain amount of probation. It was a devastating punishment, but it could have been worse. I think we showed a measured amount of grace. We could have kicked him out. But we didn’t. Because we knew how transformative the Scouting experience could be as part of our Troop. That, of course, is another testament to Mr. Gerhart’s guidance and leadership.

We could issue such a bold, fair, and graceful punishment because we knew Mr. Gerhart had our back. He trusted us. And we trusted him.

A servant leader has to trust AND be trusted. Mr. Gerhart did both.

Pointing the spotlight.

Mr. Gerhart lived out his faith every day that I saw him. He encouraged us to study creation as we were on our monthly campouts. Because he knew that as we studied creation, we would see the hand of the Creator at work. He encouraged us to take our faith seriously and live it with boldness. And he showed us that faith and scholarship are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they work together hand in hand.

He saw Scouting as an arm of our sponsoring church, reaching out to new families and encouraging young men in their faith. He took this role seriously. And I guess it was pretty effective. I mean, it got me and my brother to become active members of that church.

In addition to introducing me to Cullen Avenue Christian Church, Mr. Gerhart has another prominent place in my faith story. Shortly after mom and I had a discussion about how it was time for me to finally take ownership of my faith through the act of baptism, she set up a time for me to talk with Todd, my Youth Minister. Mr. Gerhart asked if he could sit in on our conversation.

I still have a few mental “snapshots” of this meeting. I don’t remember most of the words that were said. But I do remember knowing from that meeting that Mr. Gerhart took his faith very seriously and he was happy to know that I wanted to take my faith seriously, too.

The Apostle Paul instructed the believers in the church at Corinth to “Follow my example, as I follow the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:1). That was Mr. Gerhart. He urged us to follow him as he pointed to Jesus. That’s what servant leaders do. They don’t point the spotlight on themselves.

They point it beyond themselves.

“It’s just over the next ridge.”

When hiking at Philmont, Mr. Gerhart and his friend, Mr. Dawes, would have a saying to encourage each other. The rigorous terrain was a struggle for them, but they insisted on pushing on. They would encourage each other by saying that our destination was “Just over the next ridge.”

Of course, the end of the day’s hike usually wasn’t “over the next ridge.” It was usually five or six ridges away. But this was a good way to break up the hike into manageable legs. And since good leaders know that words matter matter and that you don’t climb a mountain in just one step, this was a fitting saying for them to share.

During long drives while my kids were younger, I found myself saying similar things. “Let’s get past this curve.” Or, “Let’s wait five minutes and see.” And, of course, “It’s just over the next ridge.” It helped break the monotony of some long trips. And it certainly helped me keep my sanity.

That’s not a bad way to approach life. Yes, we live in the present. And it’s healthy to have goals. But in order to achieve those goals, we have to break things up into manageable pieces. Each mini goal that leads to the big goal is a ridge that we must conquer.

This is one of the many leadership lessons I learned from Mr. Gerhart. It is not uncommon that find myself using many of the lessons that he lived out. He was a great leader, teacher, and friend. I will miss him. Dearly. In fact, I already do.

“Happy trails, Mr. Gerhart. Thank you for the impact you made on my life and the lives of countless others. We’ll see you over the next ridge.”

 

Endnotes

* Phil Gerhart was a highly-respected professor of engineering at the University of Evansville. Because of his PhD, it was altogether fitting that we call him Dr. Gerhart. In Scouts, he had us call him Mr. Gerhart. I don’t know why he did that, but that’s what we called him. That’s what I will always call him. I saw him at the end of 2016 when he and his wife came to the Viewing before my Grandma’s funeral. I suppose I could have gotten away with calling him “Phil.” But I didn’t. He always was and always will be Mr. Gerhart to me.

** By the time I was a Junior in high school, I had leadership roles in Band. I know my band director had something to do with that. But I credit the preparation for those leadership opportunities to Mr. Gerhart. He certainly paved the way.

Well done, David

David Rinehart playing the grand piano at the Villa Philmonte at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990
David Rinehart playing the grand piano at the Villa Philmonte at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990.

One of the few bright spots from my middle school experience was my involvement in Boy Scouts. Scouting had a huge impact on my life because of the adults who were there to mentor me. We also had a great group of older Scouts who would guide us and teach us. One of those older Scouts in my early days in Troop 322 was David Rinehart.

I looked up to him. A lot.

I know he was flawed. We all are. This is no hagiography. I know David wasn’t perfect. But to a kid entering his preteen and teenage years, David was about as close to the embodiment of the Scout Law that you could get. He ultimately went away to a small Christian college in Kentucky and then came back to our home church to serve as a worship leader.

I hadn’t really been in contact with him after I left Evansville. Unfortunately, that does tend to happen. Even in this hyper-connected age of social media. I was still happy to see him whenever I returned home. I think it’s safe to say that I still looked up to him. And I thought about him often.

In fact, I think about him every time I use a Dutch Oven or a cast iron skillet.

I think I was in seventh grade, serving as Assistant Patrol Leader. It was late one evening and we had just finished dinner. I’m not sure why, but I was the one in charge of my Patrol. The Dutch Oven we had used had burnt food that was caked onto the bottom of the pot. We decided to fill the Dutch Oven with water and sit it on our camp stove. This was somewhat standard procedure. The idea was that the hot water would help release the burnt food while you scraped the bottom with a metal spoon.

Shortly after turning our camp stove to a high flame, all patrols were called to an evening Troop meeting. Thinking it would be a quick meeting, we left the camp stove on so the water would reach a boil. I know. Big mistake. But I wasn’t really thinking. And even if I was thinking, I’m not convinced I would have known better, anyway.

With the stove set to high, the water started boiling pretty quickly. During the Troop assembly, I forgot about the Dutch Oven. We took our time getting back to our campsite. When we did finally make it back, I was shocked to discover that all of the water had evaporated and the camp stove was just burning the burnt food even more. Our Dutch Oven was a carbonized, unusable mess.

I went to the adult leaders. They asked David to come to see if there was any way he could help salvage the Dutch Oven. Late into the evening, we scrubbed and scraped and rinsed. At one point, as we started to make some progress, he stopped, looked up at me, and chuckled, saying,

“Don’t ever do this again.”

Then he continued scrubbing and scraping away.

cast-iron-skillet

This moment is etched in my memory. I think of it every time I cook with cast iron. In my mind’s eye, he looks up at me and says “Don’t ever do this again.” Then I chuckle and go back to cleaning the skillet or Dutch Oven. It reminds me of his servant’s heart. And the more I look back at those middle school and early high school days, the more I realize I really looked up to him.

Things will be different now.

In the early hours of Sunday, November 13, David, his mother, and one of his daughters died in a horrific traffic accident. They were on their way home from an amazing, season-ending performance at the Bands of America Grand Nationals here in Indianapolis.

Since learning of the news, I’ve seen countless testimonies about how David led worship with all of his heart, ushering others before the Throne and joining them in praise to Our Father. I’ve been reminded of how passionate he was when he directed a choir. And I can only imagine what kind of choir music he might be directing in heaven. What a glorious sound that would be.

David Rinehart leading worship
image via the Crossroads Youth Choir & Babd facebook page

After seeing David kneeling down with a servant’s heart, I hope I see this image in my mind’s eye the next time I’m cooking with cast iron. I hope to see him leading worship with everything that was within him. Maybe I’ll even catch a hint of the melody. And I’m sure I’ll have to swing and sway along with the beat. Just like he did.

In that moment, I will remember that there will be a day when He will wipe away every tear, as I shed a tear of my own. And I will long for a day when there will be no more death, no more mourning. No more crying or pain. I will see the beauty that will rise out of these ashes.

But for now…Now I weep. I weep for a man I haven’t seen in over a decade, but who had a much larger impact on my life than I ever realized. And I know he touched countless others with his life, too. So I join the chorus of those countless others, saying (or singing) the words that I long to hear someday. I am confident he heard these words early that Sunday morning.

“Well done, David. Well done.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I think I need to find a cast iron skillet and fix some dinner tonight.

5 ways Crater Lake prepared me for life

5 Ways Crater Lake Camp Prepared Me for Life

This post may use affiliate links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy.

Twenty years ago this month, I loaded my backpack, laced up my hiking boots, and boarded a bus that was bound for an Amtrak station. On that day, I said goodbye to what might have been the most memorable Summer I’ve ever had. After my seventh visit* to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, New Mexico, I knew that a significant chapter of my life was coming to a close.

I was not going to return to Scouting Paradise in 1997. I was already committed to taking a Summer class at Milligan. 1998 was out, too. I was already on track for an internship that Summer. And who knew what was going to happen beyond college, but I was 99.99% sure that spending another summer on staff at Philmont was not going to be in the proverbial cards. I knew that my stint as a member of the 1996 Crater lake staff was going to be my last hurrah.

And I was going to make the most of it.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with during that final Summer. Andy, Ron, Karl, and Jon were some pretty great guys. They still are. Sometimes, I felt a bit out of my league as their teammate. They were hilarious. Creativity oozed out of their pores. You know how everyone talks about the Magnificent Seven from the Atlanta Games in 1996? I believe the 1996 Crater Lake crew was just as magnificent. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that I was in the presence of greatness the Summer of 1996.

There are a lot of great memories that I still carry with me from that Summer: getting pelted by golfball-sized hail, climbing on the roof of our cabin to gaze into the vast expanse of stars every night, throwing a loaf of bread across the dinner table any time someone asked for some bread, and the hundreds of Scouts we taught how to climb a spar pole, just to name a few.

Spar Pole Climbing at Crater Lake in 1996

The Summer of 96 was life-changing for me. I became friends with an amazing group of guys. I made some amazing memories. And it prepared me for the rest of my life.

5 ways serving on staff at Crater Lake at Philmont Scout Ranch prepared me for life:

Continue reading 5 ways Crater Lake prepared me for life

My ax-ident

Scar Week

It’s no secret that my experience with Boy Scouts had a significant impact on my life. Philmont was only the tip of the iceberg. Our Scout troop (the now-defunct Troop 322) had a core group of dedicated adults who helped create an environment where leaders could be equipped and mentored. We had the opportunity to succeed…and fail…as young leaders in a safe environment. One of the things that set us apart from other troops in the area was the fact that we ran our own Summer Camp.

We could do this for two reasons: 1.) a dedicated group of dads who gave up a week of vacation in order to serve as adult advisers and teachers during the week. 2.)A strong Leadership Corps: older Scouts who served as mentors and teachers for younger Scouts. Who better to help a younger Scout learn the ropes of Scouting than by learning from the example of older Scouts who had already navigated through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class?

So let me tell you about the time that I was teaching a bunch of visiting Cub Scouts some important safety lessons. I was 16 at the time. Our Leadership Corps had set up a large area to serve as our base of operations. Because we had limited time and a bunch of visiting Webelos Scouts* (5th graders who were transitioning into Boy Scouts) to accommodate, each of us manned a station and rotated smaller groups through each station. We had about 10 to 15 minutes with each group before they moved on to the next station. One station involved knot tying. I think another was about pitching a tent. Yet another probably had something to do with cooking or campfires or something in that realm. My mind is getting a little fuzzy about those details and I’ve forgotten what was being taught at each station. But I can tell you that it was all hands-on stuff. And I can also tell you without a shadow of a doubt what skill was teaching that fateful day.

Ax safety.**

Ax

Yep. You think you might know where this is going. And you might be right. Then again, you might be wrong. Oh, so very wrong. Continue reading My ax-ident

Amazingly simple Peach Cobbler

Amazingly Simple Peach Cobbler RecipeThere are few things better than sharing a dessert while sitting around a campfire at the end of a long day of camping. When you think of desserts cooked by campfire, you might think of the common ones: s’mores or baked apples. They’re great treats to have on a campout, or even at home. One of my favorite desserts from my Scouting days was a little more fancy. In reality, though, this dessert might be easier to make than s’mores. It’s peach cobbler. It’s so good. And it’s so amazingly simple to make.

I learned how to bake this dessert in a Dutch Oven. But I don’t own a Dutch Oven. I might have to break down and buy one at some point, but that’s not in the plan any time in the near future. But I still need this peach cobbler in my life. Fortunately, there’s not much to change in order to be able to fix this at home. You just need to use a baking dish instead of a Dutch Oven. I used a 9×9 pan for this recipe. And you can use an oven instead of coals from a campfire.

You’ll be amazed at how easy this recipe is. But don’t tell anyone. Just let everyone think you’ve been slaving in the kitchen all day long. In addition to how easy and tasty it is, it’s also highly adaptable. In addition to peach cobbler, I’ve used a variation of this recipe to make apple cobbler, blueberry cobbler, and cherry cobbler. You simply change the cans of fruit and the canned pie filling and you’re all set!

Here’s how you make this Amazingly Simple Peach Cobbler:

Ingredients:

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter
1 29 oz. can of sliced peaches
1 20 oz. can of peach pie filling
You’re welcome to make your own pie filling if you’d like. But we’re keeping this recipe simple. So you’re going to have to try that out on your own if you’re feeling adventurous. You can also add more cans of peaches if you’d like.

Optional: Vanilla ice cream. I mean, it’s really not optional if you’re at home. You really should have this with vanilla ice cream. It’s a little tougher to do when you’re camping, though. So we’ll just say it’s optional.

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Drain sliced peaches. When we were camping, we would set the syrup to the side and use it in our drink mix and called it “bug juice.”
  3. In a 9×9 pan, mix peach pie filling and drained sliced peaches.
  4. Sprinkle dry cake mix over the mixed fruit.
  5. Cover the dry cake mix with pats of butter. One stick of butter should cover the entire dessert.It should look like this:
    Butter on top of Peach Cobbler
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 45 minutes until golden brown. The time is really an estimate. You bake it until it’s done. You’ll know it’s done because it’ll look something like this:
    Peach Cobbler

Serve warm with a scoop or two of ice cream.

See?

It’s really that simple.

Amazingly simple.

Peach Cobbler Title

 

3 life lessons I learned on staff at Beaubien Camp at Philmont Scout Ranch

Beaubien Staff 1995

Some college students dream of working at Disney World during their Summer Break. Others work as camp counselors or lifeguards. Some spend the long, hot Summer days working at a part-time job.

Me?

I had the opportunity of a lifetime. During the Summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years at Milligan College, I had the opportunity to live out my own dream. It is also the dream of many others who have been involved in Boy Scouts over the years. I was a Backcountry staff member at the summit of Scouting: Philmont Scout Ranch.

I had already hiked five different Philmont treks during my Scouting experience: four as a Camper and one as an adult Advisor. My love for Philmont ran deep. It still does. During my first trek, I had decided that I wanted to work in the Backcountry at Philmont. That’s not unusual, though. I would imagine that at least half of the thousands of Scouts who stream through this high adventure base have this same thought.

There is one event that solidified this dream for me. Continue reading 3 life lessons I learned on staff at Beaubien Camp at Philmont Scout Ranch

A Scout is…?

Believe me, when I heard the news that the President was skipping out on the Boy Scout National Jamboree on the 100th anniversary of the BSA in order to do some fundraising and record an episode for the View, I was upset. This snubbing certainly comes across as a slap in the face to Scouting. As an Eagle Scout, I’ve been involved off and on in Scouting for more than 25 years. I know the good that comes from Scouting. If you’ve read this blog with any regularity at all, you know that I believe I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the influence of the Boy Scouts of America. I firmly believe President Obama should have made a public appearance at the Jamboree – especially since it’s the 100th anniversary. It’s not like this anniversary snuck up on anyone. We’ve known 2010 would be the 100th anniversary since…well…1910!

With that being said, I’m disturbed by the video that is making the rounds. It has bothered me since I saw it a few days ago and I’ve tweeted about it several times. The President decided to address the Jamboree via video. Yes. He mailed it in. But that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the reaction of a group of Scouts in attendance…

I have read the explanation of the Scout who posted the video. And I respectfully disagree. Here’s why: the Scout Law.

Let me refresh your memory.

A Scout is:
Trustworthy
Loyal
Helpful
Friendly
Courteous
Kind
Obedient
Cheerful
Thrifty
Brave
Clean
Reverent

Now, let’s look at a few definitions from the Boy Scout Handbook (emphasis mine):

Courteous
A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.

Kind
A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing.

Cheerful
A Scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.

I realize there was disappointment. I get it. But that doesn’t give you license to treat people the way you want. This video hardly displays these key principles of Scouting as expressed in the Scout Law – the very Law they promised to live by when they took the Scout Oath.

There was one trip our Scout Troop went on (possibly to the US Space & Rocket Center, but I’m not sure right now) where a number in our ranks were very rude at the museum. They would cut in line and treat other guests with disrespect. Needless to say, they were giving Scouting a bad name. And our adult leadership found out about it. That night, they (and our Senior Patrol Leader) gathered us together and chewed us out, reminding us that this behavior was not acceptable.

I hope the adult leadership who was with these Scouts has talked with them about how their behavior does not line up with Scouting’s ideals. Yes, it was a video. No, they didn’t boo him in person. It doesn’t matter. It was rude to the President. It was rude to those around them who might have wanted to hear what he had to say. It was hardly courteous, kind, cheerful, or even friendly.

I learned in elementary school that you don’t boo. So, if they haven’t talked with them, maybe these Scouts need a visit from Mr. Wilhelm.

Philmont Crew 709R (1990)

My crew on my first trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico

My first (of 5) Philmont trek began 20 years ago today.

Wow. Twenty years. I had no idea how much that journey would change my life!

Grandmama was scared I was going to get eaten by a bear. I didn’t even see one that Trek. I did eventually see two bears during my time at Philmont. None of them ate me though. I’m glad Grandmama was wrong.

Charles Barkley, Intramural Basketball, and this year’s Indiana Hoosiers

The Round Mound of Rebound
Sir Charles: The Round Mound of Rebound

Like most kids in Indiana, I was no stranger playing basketball in middle school and high school. We’d play in the backyard. We’d play in the church gym after Scout Troop meetings every Tuesday night. After lunch, we’d play basketball in the gym during middle school.

And, like most kids, we’d try to model our play after NBA players. There were all kinds of Jordan wannabes with tongues wagging and showboat layups. I had my own hero on the court. It was Charles Barkley, even though has continually reminded people that  he’s not a role model.  I didn’t have the height of a Dominique Wilkins or David Robinson. I couldn’t shoot the ball from outside like Larry Bird. And I definitely didn’t have the skills of an MJ.

If my body shape was like anyone in the NBA’s, it was Barkley’s. If my playing style was like anyone’s, it was Barkley’s. I didn’t talk trash like he did. And of course I couldn’t dunk. But I could block out. And I could fight for every rebound. And I loved the fact that his game was multidimensional. When he retired, he was one of only four players to end his career with 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists.

When I was with my friends, I’d play with confidence and reckless abandon. I’d block out. I’d fight for every possession. I’d drive to the basket with confidence. And I wasn’t afraid to swat away a shot or two. And when Kevin was playing, they made us play on opposing teams because we were too good when we were on the same team. We knew where the other was going to be and what the other one was going to do. I guess we canceled each other out when we were on opposing teams.

Things changed when I played with people other than my usual friends. There was one time when we were playing a pickup game and I was dominating in the paint. A few of the more athletic guys came over and suggested we play a game of four-on-four. We agreed. And I completely disappeared. It was like I’d forgotten how to play. It was like a light switch. One of my friends came up to me and said, “Play like you were just playing.” And I tried. I just didn’t react the same way. I couldn’t block out. I couldn’t drive to the hoop. It was like I forgot how to play.

The same thing happened again my freshman year of college. When I got together with my friends and we played a little hoops, I usually did pretty well. S0 we joined the intramural league. We walked into the gym for the first game, oozing with confidence. But that all changed at the first tip of the ball. I disappeared. Again. The light switch went off and I forgot how to play. As we were running down the court, one of my friends said to me something that sounded eerily similar to what was said to me five years prior: “Play like you were just playing yesterday!” But I couldn’t do it. I guess I was too intimidated.

We lost that game by at least 30 points. It might have been 50. I really don’t remember. We lost every other game in that intramural season. We were a bunch of freshman who hadn’t played together very much before intramurals began and we really didn’t have the collective skills (or hoops intelligence, to be honest) to match any of our opponents. We tried our hardest, but we really weren’t very good. And although my team tried to do everything they could to rebuild my confidence, I just didn’t ever play like I did when it was just me and my friends playing together. It was like I was a big fish in a little pond and I definitely couldn’t keep up with the big boys. Instead of fight my way through that, something inside of me would shut down instead.

Photo courtesy Hoosier Scoop Online

I thought of my basketball experience this Saturday as I watched the Indiana vs. Illinois game. I have no doubt that the Hoosiers are good players. I mean, Kyle Taber was the Player of the Year in Evansville his Senior year. That’s no small accomplishment. I’m sure they do remarkably well during practice.

What I saw when I watched the game, though, was a bunch of guys who realized they didn’t have the raw talent to take on their opponent. And instead of fighting for every possession and crashing every board, they forgot how to play. Just like when I’d play against people who were better than me, the light switch went off.

The Hoosiers are inexperienced. That goes without saying. Michigan’s Fab Five were inexperienced and they were very successful. But they were one of the highest-rated recruiting classes of all time. They could overpower other teams with their raw talent and athleticism.

The Hoosiers don’t have All-American talent. At best, they have the talent level of a mid-major or a smaller school. Mid-majors and smaller schools don’t overwhelm other teams with their overpowering athleticism. Inexperienced mid-majors and smaller schools get beat up by the bigger, more experienced and talented teams. They get beat up by teams like Indiana used to be. And while they take their lumps their first year or two, a team with the right chemistry and good coaching can build on those beatings and turn into a threat to the big boys come tournament time of the young team’s senior year.

In a few years, I’m confident that this is what’s going to happen to the Indiana program. In case you hadn’t read it before on my blog, Tom Crean gets it. He understands what Hoosier Hysteria is all about. He understands that there’s a culture and tradition at IU. And he can build on that. But tradition doesn’t win basketball games. So during this massive rebuilding process, the Hoosiers might wind up looking a little bit like my freshman intramural team.

I’d like to say that we blew out our opponent in the opening round of our intramural tournament. We didn’t. But we did manage to lose to the #1 seed (the team that blew us out in the first game of the season) by single-digits.

Sometimes it’s important to celebrate the small things.