Reflections of a Middle-Aged Wood Badger

(Originally published Saturday, September 26, 2015 in S5-551-15 Issue 11 of The Gilwell Gazette.)

                Two Scouting people have been much in my thoughts over the past few weeks. One is a 12-year old boy, just a few years into Scouting. The other has spent much of his life in Scouting. Both have needed our prayers lately, as well as all of the expertise and crare modern medicine can provide.

                I know Keeghan Brown through two belt loop colleges I hosted a few years ago in the Palmetto Council. He was one of 80 youth we had in 2012, and among the 65 boys we had in 2013. I still have copies of his ‘Bachelors’ degree in Academics and Sports Belt Loops and Pins on my computer. He has been very active in Scouts during his few short years in the program.

                Less than a month ago, he was considering the possibility of playing football this fall. As of yesterday evening, he was coming out of a several-hour open heart surgery in Charleston, and the hopes and prayers for the time being are that he can soon breathe on his own. His parents are going through a trial I cannot imagine and which I can barely think about without losing my composure.

                Just a matter of days separate endless possibilities and a previously unthinkable possible end.

                Meanwhile, in Spartanburg, Dick Kugler’s family recently gathered at Spartanburg Regional to surround this father, grandfather and lifelong Scouter with love and gratitude during his last days. Kugler, a recipient of the Good Shepherd Award, most recently served as a unit commissioner and committee member with both Pack 11 and Troop 11 in the Palmetto Council. He made it a point of pride to join both the pack and troop on campouts, including one frigid overnighter last fall at Landrum, SC; and a week of Boy Scout camp at Camp Bob Hardin in summer 2014. He joined my Bear den a few years ago to talk about his days as a Cub Scout, somehow managing to hold their attention better than the den leader (me) as he pointed out the changes to his beloved program over the years.

                Dick Kugler, after a lifetime of serving others, passed away today in Spartanburg.

                The span of time between these two lives is considerable, and yet they share a common bond with each other and with me. That bond is Scouting, and it is strong enough that the same people in South Carolina are praying for a little boy’s recovery in Charleston and for a family’s peace and strength in Spartanburg.

                Where does that leave the middle-aged Wood Badger? Here are just a few thoughts. First, there are no guarantees. We cannot know when we wake up whether we have another hike or another campout left before we ‘go home.’ A well-respected, excellent staffer told his patrol this afternoon that he didn’t know whether he would ever give another presentation, or serve on another Wood Badge staff. It’s true. He doesn’t, and neither do I. Nor do you.

                Second, the personal connections that we form through Scouting can be lasting and powerful, if we but make them so. Some Scouters never speak with their Wood Badge patrol members again, while others look forward to frequent get-togethers. That choice is mine and yours to make.

                Third, the training that you are receiving this weekend—no, that’s not right – the training in which you are actively participating will allow you to impact many people through Scouting and cross paths with others who want to make a positive change in our community and world. That is a wonderful thing, and not something to take lightly. I would not know Keeghan Brown and his family today, and I would only know Dick Kugler as a member of my church’s choir, if I had not met them through the gift of Scouting.

                So, if tonight you decide to lift up two lives and two families in prayer, please consider adding a word or two of thanks for a program that touches those lives, those families, and many more besides.

-By Michael Wiggins