Don’t Bring the Fat Kid

I’ve written about scouting and some of the feelings I have toward the organization before. I have a deep, nostalgic place in my heart for them. Some of the most wonderful and amazing memories I have from my youth come directly from activities with my scout troop.

High adventure camps offered a couple of the best trips I took as a scout. I’ve taken a canoe across Lake Ossopee. That trip went 35 miles over the course of a week, canoe during the day and camp on islands in the lake each night. I’ve canoed down the Sacco River into Maine. That was a 50 mile trip over the course of a week. There were slow, lazy float days and days when there were rapids. It wasn’t easy. My canoe “crashed” so many times the rest of the guys made me ride with the trip guide – he’s the only one that would take me.

Going to an event, like a jamboree or an adventure camp, was a highlight in my scouting days. Those trips were the best – despite the troubles when I was there. You see, I was the fat kid. My canoe didn’t make it over some of the rocks in the shallow rapids because it was too low in the water. The other kids scraped over the top and kept on going. My canoe got stuck. Once it was stuck, the rushing current of the river turned the canoe sideways and dumped it over. Everything, and everyone in the boat was wet. I lost three paddles that week. I think we ran out of spares. My sleeping bag was soggy. Still one of the clearest, most cherished memories I have from my scouting days. I learned a lot. I remember because I struggled. My mom and dad weren’t there. Nobody was holding my hand. I had to succeed, or fail, on my own. It’s part of what makes me the person I am today.

That makes the Boy Scouts decision to “ban fat kids” from an upcoming jamboree that much more disappointing.

There are a lot of folks out there (including me) that have given their opinion on the troubles the Scouts are having as an organization. This ban will not help them in any way. This is a no win situation for the Scouts. They’re already struggling to get and keep members. They’ve changed one of the badge requirements to include recruitment (get somebody else to join to advance). They’re struggling with the issue of gay boys and men that want to be part of the organization just as they’ve already taken a hit over religion in the past. There are a core of folks that believe, but I suspect that core is dwindling. This is not going to help. I am saddened by this choice.

Telling card carrying members of your beleaguered organization that they can’t go because they’re too fat helps nobody, particularly not the kids that can’t go. Those are the kids that will struggle. They’ll lose their paddle, have a wet sleeping bag and feel bad that the other kids don’t want to ride in the wet boat. They’ll step up and learn and grow. They’ll get stronger and learn about exercise and take an interest in being healthier and become happier. Those are the kids that will carry those memories with them forever. Those are the kids that need that jamboree the most – and you’ve told them not to show up.

I can’t back that decision. It pushes me a step further away from them as an organization. I hate that. I hate that because I was that fat kid, and I needed that trip.