Lessons from the trail: A Scout Leader

This lesson from the trail occurred a few months back. It was dusk on a perfect-weathered weeknight and I was out biking with my hubby when we crossed a bunch of young men accompanied by their adult church leaders. They were all getting exercise at their own levels of ability. We observed the get-goers first as we were riding in the opposite direction. First was a group of about 10 boys with one pretty fit and younger leader cruising along at an admirable speed. The next four groups were varied in number of boys and accompanied adults but ranged no more than a few minutes behind the front group to trailing maybe five minutes behind. After a few more minutes we then passed the obviously struggling group with some of the younger boys as well as the overweight members of the troop (adults and boys). They were slow, but they were still persisting and seemed to be enjoying themselves and the camaraderie. LG and I discussed our pride and admiration for the whole group (at their varying abilities) as we rode away. We assumed that the last struggling group would be the last but we assumed wrong.


This photo was taken at the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Church History Museum back in August ’13. No doubt my husband was having a moment of remembrance to when he earned his own Eagle Scout.

bike path

After several more minutes we came to a crossroad where the trail-users have to yield to the vehicles using the city road. Because we were stopped waiting on the traffic we were able to observe the very last Scout leader with just a single boy across the street. What I observed touched me deeply.

At every road crossing on each side of the street there are a set of narrow passages through gates that keep large vehicles from using the trail. I personally (as well as most others) pass through these gates with ease. Whether I am running or biking, I don’t have to give the narrow passages a second thought. When LG and I ride together, so that we don’t have to slow down, it is just understood that simultaneously he takes the passes on the left and I on the ones on the right.

This day however LG and I both stood still with our bikes as we watched this most amazingly patient Scout leader treat his troop member with great kindness, respect, and love. We had just passed the rest of the troop so we could tell that this young man wasn’t one of the youngest. He was probably about fourteen and looked like a completely healthy capable kid. Yet, upon careful observation it was obvious that this boy must have had some kind of mental disability. From across the street, we watched this pair slowly approach the gate and even more slowly come to a very careful stop.

With an encouraging smile on his face, the leader stood aside and let the boy struggle through the threatening narrow passage. For some reason the boy’s large motor skills created a mountain out of a molehill and he could not get through the gateway while peddling. He tried. He gave it everything he had, but he eventually dismounted his bike (while somewhat animatedly cursing the dang gate) and walked through awkwardly dragging his bike to his side.We took an extra long drink of our water and moved to the side of the path on our side of the street to stay out of the way. The same exact four minute process happened once again on our side of the street and we had a front seat view of one very determined boy and his ideal Scout leader. Thinking back on this is bringing tears to my eyes once again. It was such an inspiring interaction.


I couldn’t help but find this event metaphoric in my own life. Don’t we all struggle at times in our lives? Sometime somewhere we may have been or will be at the end of the pack. We may be frustrated with a repeated obstacle. We may be giving it everything we’ve got (in fact giving it more than even the ones at the front of the pack) yet we remain peddling way behind. I’ve been there. I’ve wondered, “Why me? Why does it have to be so hard?”

When I get to my next obstacle I will think of this boy and let his determination and courage be my guiding light.

I will also make a very serious effort to be a leader with kind eyes, a patient demeanor, an encouraging smile, and a love bigger than the universe itself.