I have to be totally honest: there were a few moments during which Jim and I doubted we’d be able to say that. But here we are.
I’m talking about the Older Boy’s Boy Scout Eagle Project. It has been a little less than a year in the making; it’s been a year of pushing, pulling, nagging, complaining–some by us, some by him. It’s been a year of learning when to stop pushing and let him take the reins. It’s been the year of gentle reminders. It’s been the year of juggling and prioritizing. It’s been a year of a wee bit o’ negativity, but mostly positivity.
It’s been a Year, that’s for sure!
The idea of a boy “going for” the Eagle Rank–the highest rank in Boy Scouts and a rank that only 4-5% of all scouts ever achieve; also the only accomplishment pre-college that will stay on his resume’ for a lifetime–is that they show not only all of the attributes listed in the Boy Scout Law but also great leadership. One of the requirements of the Eagle Rank is to execute a community service project by leading a group of volunteers in some sort of task.
Eagle projects vary greatly; the young man is charged with finding a part of the community that needs a little help or improvement and working with the people of that community to get the job done. Many boys lead food drives, trail clean-ups, school improvements, and countless other things. One boy in our troop even led a project a couple of years ago to build bookshelves for a library that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and I do believe he delivered them himself (with his family)!
The hard thing for these boys to remember is, as the leader, they really have to delegate in order to supervise the big picture properly. The hard part as the parent is that you can truly do only so much “pushing” (okay, nagging) before you cross a line into the Boy’s own leadership. We didn’t drag him through it to be sure; rather, we just applied light pressure when needed. (He IS a procrastinator, after all!) By the time it was all over, he was having a little trouble with the delegating of behind-the-scenes work because he’s a control freak just like his momma (Go Big or Go Home!).
When it came time for our son to figure out his project, he knew that he wanted to do something for our Jewish community. He really wanted to make an impact “at home” and he wanted to be able to leave a legacy of sorts that current and future generations would enjoy. We worked with the Landscaping Committee Chairperson (Mr. E) to develop some ideas. Finally, it was settled. The Boy would transform the front corner of the front yard from just grass to a gorgeous kidney-shaped area of planting. He would work closely with Mr. E on the temple end; his other project mentor would be a local Landscape Architect (Mr. H) with a special connection: he was actually this boy’s first Scoutmaster. I love the “full circle” idea and this was so great, to be able to share it with him.
Here’s the “before”, the empty canvas if you will:
Of course, before we could get to the “after”, lots of “red tape” was involved. On the temple end, he had to attend monthly board meetings to get his plans approved. This was an added bonus to his project, in my opinion. Through this project, he got to see the inner workings of our temple. Things don’t just “get done” magically, and sometimes there is more jumping through hoops than any person would enjoy, but the Board asked him tough questions and he learned that he really had to either know exactly what he was talking about or he had to figure out where he would find the answer for them. He learned that he couldn’t just waltz into one board meeting, announce what he planned to do, and then get started. On the contrary, he had to make a proposal, listen to discussion about it, make changes when necessary, answer the questions about how it would be paid for and really have all of his ducks in a row before any ground would be broken.
Over the last several months, the Older Boy has had meetings with Mr. E, Mr. H, and others. He helped with the blueprint design of the area.
Obviously the preferred method of payment was by donations. Most companies are more than willing to help these young men who are aiming for Eagle. Unfortunately, with the economy the way it’s been, several of the contacts given to him by Mr. H couldn’t donate outright but instead offered him wholesale pricing, which was awesome. Unfortunately, the costs looked like they were going to be $1500 or a little higher. We were having some panic about it and he had to go to a board meeting and tell them that there was this shortage. Before he went to the meeting, we came up with some proposed solutions to present at the same time, so none of the board members would A)have a heart attack or B)shoot the entire project down. Our three proposed solutions were:
1. To ask the congregation for donations ($5 per family, though unrealistic to expect that everyone would donate, but we’d put it out there!)
2. Bake Sale (See Go Big or Go Home!)
3. Coordinate a restaurant fundraiser, during which the restaurant would agree to give a percentage of one day’s food sales to the landscaping fund
The Board liked it, and didn’t freak out about our shortage in the least (Whew!). I think they also were impressed that the Boy felt strongly about doing his best to try and cover most or all of his costs; he didn’t want to ask the temple for any money (though they agreed that they would cover some of the cost if necessary).
And so, with that, his Eagle Project had a side project: Fundraising to pay for the Eagle Project. It’s a good thing that this kid’s mom is a marketing genius. As the leader of this project, he has to, as I mentioned before, delegate tasks. I became the Marketing Queen. I made sure that news of his project was all over the place. When Julesie and I prepared for the Bake Sale, word was OUT.
As the two Sunday project dates loomed closer (working on temple land meant that we couldn’t work on Saturdays because of the Sabbath: otherwise we surely would have completed it in one weekend!), he had to get volunteers to sign up. We asked for help from both our Boy Scout Troop AND the temple community. Normally it’s mainly boys from the troop who work on these projects for each other, but our family felt strongly that it would be a great opportunity for the community at the temple to come together on something that benefited everyone. There was no shortage of volunteers. We were very lucky!
The week before last was a busy one, tying up loose ends and getting ready for Sunday the 19th, the first work day (and the bake sale!). The weather forecast? Rain. Ugh. We were very concerned.
Did it rain? Hell yeah. All morning. But they persevered and got it done. Tasks for day one? Just to name a few: cutting the sod out of the area, moving 28 cubic feet of dirt from the parking lot to the site, building a retaining wall to keep the whole thing from falling into the nearby sewer grate, adding compost, and throwing in some outcropping.
This past week? Not as stressful. That first day was the hardest; all that was left for yesterday was planting. Once again though, the forecast was for scattered storms. We kept every body part that was possible to cross, crossed.
Did it rain? Hell yeah. Torrential downpours. I was teaching my first session religious school class and kept looking out the window at the site where the boy and his volunteers got soaked to the bone trying to get the job done. They even had to take breaks under the awning in front of the building because the rain (and occasional lightning) got so bad at times.
Did they finish? Hell yeah. In two hours. Here’s “after”:
Coincidentally, our temple’s annual meeting (during which they elect a new Board and go over reports from the past year) was in the afternoon. We wanted to go, so that the Older Boy could announce to the congregation that we were hoping they would go to the restaurant down the street afterwards for the fundraiser. When he was called up to make his announcement, he also brought a list of thank yous. His speech was totally smooth, hilarious at times, and very gracious. We were just bursting with pride. He got laughs when he wanted them (yay), and rousing applause when he was done. One lady even gave him a standing O. It was an amazing moment, and an important lesson about community at the same time. After the meeting, people came up and thanked him personally, and gave him all sorts of wonderful compliments (teens love that), all well-deserved.
At the restaurant? We had a great time. We sat with good friends of ours from the temple, and were pleasantly surprised when our old neighbors showed up to support our fundraiser, so we made room for them at the table. Also amazing? The restaurant was overwhelmed with the amount of temple people that showed up for dinner. The boy made the rounds to thank people for coming, and we had a great dinner.
Our family really couldn’t ask for more. The idea of the Eagle rank is huge; he’s got some paperwork to file, a Board of Review to participate in, and when he passes that we’ll schedule a ceremony. Just as huge though, has been the experience of a community pulling together for the greater good, an added bonus. I know our family won’t forget it, and I know that the Older Boy in particular has been impacted by it in a major way. It’s a great feeling!