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The power of the great outdoors

Check out this post, written by Boys’ Life magazine’s Aaron Derr, featured on the Reading Rainbow Blog.  

There’s one in every group.

If you’ve ever spent time around a gathering of youth, then you know the one I’m talking about.

Sometimes he’s the loud one; sometimes he’s the quiet one. Maybe he’s average size for a kid his age, or maybe he’s a bit bigger, or a bit smaller.

RR 1Doesn’t matter. There’s always one.

He’s the one who isn’t 100 percent confident in what he’s doing; the one who honestly looks like he might break down and cry at any minute, even though he’s really too old to be breaking down and crying.

(Weren’t we all like that, at least at some tenuous moments, when we were kids?)

As a writer for Boys’ Life magazine, I’ve seen this kid at almost every Boy Scout event I’ve covered. And my thoughts are almost always the same: This one might not make it.

It doesn’t matter if we’re sailing at Florida Sea Base, backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch or cross-country skiing at The Northern Tier High Adventure Bases.

We could be planting trees in a local park, cleaning up trash from a picnic area or collecting food for the needy.

That kid is always there.

And every time, he proves me wrong.

This is the power of Scouting in particular, and of the great outdoors in general.

Both bring out the best in us.

Sometimes, the kid has too much stuff in his backpack. I’ve seen Scout leaders remove hardcover books, handheld electronic games and extra junk food from a Scout’s backpack to lighten his load.

Other times, the kid doesn’t have enough stuff: not enough water, not enough sunscreen, no extra pair of socks in case the first pair gets wet.

Then, at some point on the journey, it happens. There might be tears, or there might just be silence.

I call it the I’m-done-with-this moment, when the kid has had enough.

Maybe he’s too hot or too cold or too tired or too dirty. Whatever. He’s checked out. Doesn’t matter if we’re in the middle of the wilderness and he has nowhere else to go. He’s done.

That’s when a traveling companion—maybe a trusted adult, maybe a friend his own age—stops by. Almost casually, like he just happened to notice the boy for the first time at that very moment, by a complete coincidence.

“What’s happening, buddy?”

Sometimes the talk is stern. Sometimes it’s light-hearted. Sometimes there’s a brief discussion. Sometimes the conversation is one-sided.

Then the kid licks his wounds, picks up his stuff, and starts the process of recovery, and the process of proving me wrong.

Down the trail he goes. Sometimes he still struggles, and he might even have another breakdown or two along the way. But his support system is still with him, and the story always ends the same.

Boy Scouts from Troop 224 in northeastern Oregon.

Boy Scouts from Troop 224 backpack in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in northeastern Oregon.Around the campfire in the evening, Scouts often play a game called “roses and thorns.” Each of them is asked to discuss something they liked about that day, along with something they didn’t like.

“I liked the s’mores!” “I didn’t like the rain.” “I liked swimming in the lake!” “I didn’t like the mosquitos.”

Then comes the kid. You know the one. There’s one in every group.

I brace myself. Here we go.

“I liked everything.”

Then he smiles, and I smile, too.

I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

Aaron Derr is the senior writer for Boys’ Life magazine, the official youth magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s his job to cover the wide range of activities in which Scouts participate, from service projects in their own neighborhoods to epic mountain-climbing treks on the other side of the world. Occasionally, he gets to do other fun stuff for work. You can read his Scouting Around blog here and follow him on Twitter here.

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