As one of several assistant scout leaders in my congregation, I had the privilege of taking one day out of the week to go to scout camp the week of June 11, 2012. I admit firstly that I am no camper. What I am is a liability and an insurance hazard.
The Scoutmaster and all the scouts had to babysit me and make sure I did not injure some part of my anatomy the entire time I was out there at Coconino National Forest.
Lessons From Capture The Flag
- In order to gain victory and achieve your goals, you have to be willing to take risks.
- Making plans based on limited and sometimes incorrect information are necessary.
- In order to succeed, failure must be accepted as a possible outcome.
- Sacrifice is sometimes a necessary thing to reach the overall objective.
- Just because a rule exists does not mean it will be followed.
- It is okay to accept that others are better at things or worse at things without animosity.
Capture The Flag
The night I arrived for my shift of leadership responsibility at camp we played capture the flag. Not being able to run anymore did not stop me from trying to do it! Running into tree stumps and falling into holes, I crawled on my hands and knees in the dark trying to avoid the more skilled and faster men and boys.
Six feet away from the flag, a silhouette rushed towards me and tagged me out. A twelve-year-old took me out--cheating by the way.
The rules of the game were that guardians of the flag were to be at least 20 feet away from the flag unless it is being attacked. This boy, Colbie, posted up right next to the flag so that he did not have to chase anyone.
I learned from that kid that just because a rule exists does not mean it will be followed--something else that helps bring life into perspective. Just as in life, we can sure to follow the rules, but not everyone else.
A scout is honest and trustworthy still applies, though, in that instance, that scout did not honor the rules of engagement in the game. Instead of judging the boy harshly, I reasoned that he and people, in general, are not one good deed or one bad deed but the sum of them all together. With directions and standards, we can keep ourselves well worked in good deeds and hope the bad ones do not receive greater recognition.
Both teams won a go at capture the flag. The elation at winning helped me to see the real joy of it! Winning at capture the flag meant that we were more skillful than the other team at protecting our assets and pilfering theirs--superior in skill and craftiness. Friendships did not end because of the outcome of the game.
Capture the flag with the scouts became life for me. I may compete in the market with others, but I can leave the market and be friends when it is time.
Capture the Flag also taught me that it is okay not to be the best to succeed in life. I do not have to be another Bill Gates in order to have self-satisfaction.
On the other hand, it is okay to be the best! It is okay to accept that others are better at things or worse at things without animosity--the way the scouts did.
The next day after a rousing morning devotional, we scouts and leaders went to Fossil Creek Waterfall for a hike. This was the most interesting and horrific physical experience of my recent memory.
The last experience of similar exertion in my life occurred during my missionary service in South Africa when I and other missionaries hiked Table Mountain.
With my health condition, it was unwise for me to do it, but I went up the hiking trail to the waterfall. I should have turned back when I went up the access road to the trail off to the left and started having trouble, but I did not.
My Triumph at Table Mountain
The trail, to a normal healthy man or boy, was not daunting in the least. It was rocky with a few inclines and declines and dozens of stair climbing opportunities intermittently spaced. The boys and men in the troop plodded ahead on the trail relishing the idea of the waterfall and swimming that would be their reward for hiking.
I had a different experience. The trail, as I said, looked easy to my old healthy self, but not my new not so healthy self. I walked a short way and decided that I would turn around because the terrain started to take its toll on my body.
Fatigue has set in by the time I reached the trail's entrance which led down to Hell it seemed. The fact that it leads down reminded me that I would have to climb back up the same way. I should have turned back then, but I did not.
One hundred yards later my body started to scream from lethargy. It was not the pain that kept me from rushing, it was extreme exhaustion from a combination of medications and lack of physical fitness. The Scoutmaster told me it would be wise to stay in the parking lot with him due to my health--an option I then wished I had taken.
Prone to fainting and falling, I rued the decision I made. My troop did not know the seriousness of my health condition at that time. What if I fell on the trail? Or worse, what if I fell off the trail?!
As the thought entered my mind, one of the scouts came back for me when he noticed I was no longer with them. No complaints left my lips that all left me in the dust on the trail; nor did I indicate that I wanted anyone to remain with me. Being last was my plan. I did not realize how grateful I would be to this young man until he took my hand and helped me climb one of the many small boulders.
All sorts of thoughts went through my head. I was paranoid that we were breaking scouting rules because a leader and a scout are never to be alone because of the terrible things that others have done in the past to boys. I love following the rules!
"Go on ahead," I told the boy so that he could be with the others to avoid the appearance of evil because a leader and a scout are never to be alone but he would not leave. Rule breaking was a thing for him! I settled with him walking a few paces ahead of me as I slowly stumbled along the trail.
This young man, Colbie, had injured his foot the night prior playing capture the flag as he related to me while walking. He said that he wanted to stay with me and make sure I made it okay. I thought one of the leaders might have indicated to him to babysit me, but it was not so. Rules make that a nonpossibility.
Colbie glanced back often to make sure I was not far behind. He was getting antsy about getting to the falls I could tell, but he would not leave.
Several times I entreated him to go, but he dismissed it. What fortune for me that he did not go because he ended up carrying my pack and his as I walked more slowly and started to show visibly my physical limit approaching.
My mind raced as I thought of how I would get back! Colbie made me feel really cared about. I could not believe it!
Colbie is not the sentimental type. If I compared him to a Norse God he would be Loki, the mischief-maker. He is the one who picks the fights and keeps the pranks going in the troop!
"Brother Johnson," came his explanation for staying with me. "I know the way. I have been down the path before."
Colbie steered me away from the more unsteady rocks along the path and held my hand to lift me up the hard climbs.
When we came to the waterfall, he turned to me and became the Colbie I had come to expect. Leaving his gear near me, he dashed away up the mountain cliff to jump into the water below the falls. He made sure I could see the falls and participate before he went to enjoy the falls.
I quietly rested for a moment thinking about the love I felt for my little brother for helping me along the path that he knew as I enjoyed the cascading water and laughter of the scouts and leaders.
Return With Honor After the Falls
As I stood from the rock, I imagined the waterfall to be the love and goodness of life or the goodness of God. This goodness fell continuously as the waters do in the falls. Having my fill of the beauty of the falls or the love of God, I had to endure the many hazards along the path of life. This thought gave me the courage to continue my hike on the path.
Hours passed as the boys and leaders played in the water. I decided to leave before the troop not wanting them waiting on me at the vehicles or putting Colbie in a position to feel a need to stay behind with me breaking the rules again. I left early and immediately regretted it.
As ashamed as I am of my behavior, I cried as I walked because of the pain. Not only was I exhausted, but started to think that seeing the waterfall was not worth the pain I felt getting back to the truck.
For half of the hike back I suffered in silence. I did not want people to hear me crying in pain as I walked--in case someone came during my trial. No one did come.
At some point, I stopped caring if anyone heard me cry. I wanted someone to come. I missed Colbie who helped me get to the falls. He carried my pack so that I had an easier trip, but now I had to walk alone.
I wanted relief, but none came. I thought of all the people who hike the trail in bathing suits wearing smiles and felt jealous that my hike had to be so hard.
"Why couldn't I just be healthy like the other people and have an easy walk along the path?" I shouted in my mind.
I cried, but very few tears fell as it all sweated out my body. I actually cried and wanted to give up! I sat down on a rock and thought how much like life was this hike.
Colbie had acted like a parent in life or a missionary who helped me navigate at the beginning along the path. He could not make me enjoy the waterfall, but he could help me find it.
Pests are Trials
Each step hurt now. Each step came with wincing pain. Thoughts of the Savior entered my mind, how he suffered the pains of all men. Jesus had to walk the path alone to suffer for our sins as I did to finish my hike. I made the hike a challenge--a decision that helped me not falter later.
The more pain I experienced the more I likened the hike to life. Trembling in weariness, wishing the trail shorter, I bargained with God. I still had to walk, even if someone came along, which only happened towards the end, I had to walk.
At one point, I thought I reached my limit. What an inconvenience I would be when they would find me on the path passed out I told myself. Each time I thought this, a few flies would come and pester me. A surge of energy would erupt in me as I tried to avoid the flies and bees.
In Doctrine & Covenants 58:2-4 Jesus Christ states:
For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
For after much tribulation come the blessings....
Considering my plight on the trail, these words of the Lord rang true in my heart that hardship on the trail was a trial. Life is full of them--trails and trials!
Unlike the trail I was on, the trials of life have dire consequences if we give up on the journey and refuse to endure it well. Some times trials are presented to us as the course of life. Other trials are the result of our own action or the action of others.
On my trail during scout camp, the pests were not my doing. They were placed before me.
Those pests were little trials in life that really do not hurt us, but test our patience. We need them sometimes to push us along the path of life--like Alma leading his group and being captured by Ammulon in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I was chastened with trials or flies, which helped me walk on.
Just when I was about to give up, I came to the end. I heard some of my troop behind me. As I climbed to the top of the path I almost burst into tears. I had done it!
Heaven is at the End
My troop members passed me commenting to me. They made no mention of the hike. I wanted them to praise me, but they would never know how hard this hike was for me. I could not even articulate it at the time. Then came the long smooth and straight march to the truck. I started to feel like it was taking too long to end.
I started questioning when will it be over. Then the scripture came to my mind to press forward! It reads
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. 2 Nephi 31:20
I could do it. All I had to do was endure to the end at that point! There were no more hills or boulders--just a clear dirt road to the truck! I had to bow down before I entered the parking lot to pass under the roadblock gates. It was as if I was bowing to Jesus as my last act in life.
The Scout Master, Michael, greeted me at the truck to invite me into the air conditioning. He asked me how was my hike. I told him it was hell, but getting into his truck was like going into the Celestial kingdom.
He said to me, "Come in and receive of the air conditioning." I walked into the temporary feeling of heavenly rest and enjoyed the sounds of Weezer on the radio all the way back to camp.
What about You?
Has participating in a organization like Scout caused you to reflect on life to appreciate it more?
© 2012 Rodric Anthony Johnson