The doorbell rang for what seemed like the sixth time in the last few days. Our neighbourhood has been beset by peddlers of APX security systems, who want to give us their security system and put a sign in the yard to advertise it, but the whole thing is an annoying waste of time. We continue to turn them down and I was prepared to do it again.
Rather than a creepy salesguy in a dark blue shirt, I was faced with a short teenage boy with a fine collection of pimples and a lawn mower at rest behind him on the sidewalk.
“I’m a Boy Scout and I’m mowing lawns to raise money for summer camp. I was wondering if I could mow your lawn?” he asked.
I’m always taken aback by things like these, and since I’ve been faced with them so rarely, I have no default response at the ready. I heartily approve of doing work for recompense, rather than begging, and I don’t mind buying candy or popcorn or even magazine subscriptions to help someone out. What’s more, I used to be a Boy Scout myself, and lawn mowing is a fantastic way to raise money compared to many of the alternatives. I wish I’d thought of it when I was younger.
Nevertheless, I hesitated because 1) I was worried about our newly planted trees, still so tiny and fragile, and 2) I felt a bit bad asking him to mow the entire yard, front and back. In addition, I had planned to mow it myself tomorrow night.
But the kid only asked $15 for the yard (I charged at least $20 when I was his age), and it’s not like I wanted to mow the yard tomorrow, so after pointing out the trees three times I agreed. I didn’t tell him about the back.
He did it all and I wrote him a check for $20. Wishing him good luck, I started to close the door as he jogged down the path from our door, back to the sidewalk, but I caught myself and ducked back outside.
“Are you going to Arrowhead?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied with a grin.
“Have a good time!” I said, smiling equally though I wasn’t quite sure why.
I hope he has a great time, and I really like that he’s out earning his way, but Arrowhead holds few fond memories for me. I like camping alright, I suppose, and I did well at the different tests/badges/whatever-they’re-called. But I was homesick, and the heat has never agreed with me, and I really appreciate a proper lavatory. I can’t recall if I just went the once or if I camped there multiple summers, or if perhaps I visited multiple camps. All I know is that the summer trip was something to approach with apprehension, and at best it was a chance to get out of the house and away for a while.
My Boy Scout troop wasn’t one of friends, but rather was founded (as so many structures of young boys are) on one-ups-man-ship and Might Makes Right. For most, that’s the closest to friendship that boys can get, but it didn’t satisfy me and I certainly wasn’t happy. I quit the Boy Scouts at high school (I think it was right before my freshman year, though I don’t recall) and never regretted it.
Someday I hope to find a good troop for my son and to join the Boy Scouts again as a scout leader, but I want the experience to be better for him than it was for me. Likewise, I want to communicate to my son that if he wants out, he’s out, no problem. What’s important is that he’s enjoying himself and getting something out of the experience. Sticking with it because you’re afraid you’ll disappoint your elders, or because you have nothing better to do, simply isn’t worthwhile.
As for the lawn-mowing kid, I just hope his troop is better than mine. It’d be hard to be worse, and I can’t imagine someone putting so much effort into attending camp if they didn’t enjoy it. His work has retroactively brought a bit of shine to my memories of Arrowhead. If it wasn’t good for me, I can at least be glad that it is good for someone else.