“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”
Uniformed boys peppered the woods. Young men with dirt smudged faces and tousled hair walked along trails telling stories and laughing. One boy squatted alone whittling a stick and others gathered around an old wooden picnic table while an older youth demonstrated knots. The sound of an ax striking wood, was muffled by distance and the forest. I imagined myself amid Peter Pan and the lost boys. It was parents day at camp and I was making an important delivery; sixty carefully weighed envelopes of cornstarch for the last week of camp. They were stacked neatly in rows in a plastic shoe box for protection from moisture.
The tent where my son’s belongings laid was empty. He had spent the night in the woods. I placed the shoe box on his bunk and began the walk toward the ceremony ring. Tonight was the night of the infamous Tap Out. Every year several scouts were chosen because of their scouting spirit and were put through an ordeal to prove themselves before being inducted into the Order of the Arrow. This year my son had been selected. Scout leaders were concerned about the Ordeal and some alterations were made to accommodate his liver disease and meticulous feeding regimen.
During the day my son had undergone a rigorous day of labor and silence. Food was basic. In spite of the liver disease my guess was the hardest thing for him was the silence. He was being allowed to participate along side his peers. He was learning to be self reliant, to believe in his own abilities, to be confident in newly learned skills, to own the power to control his words, his actions and his life.
The council fire was laid by older scouts in a clearing the boys used as a ball field. An old wooden boat was balanced on its flat end and several medium sized tree trunks leaned against it in the shape of a teepee. Smaller teepees were nested within and filled with brush and tinder. The structure stood twenty feet tall. Parents were beginning to arrive and darkness was encompassing the camp. The scouts who had undergone their day of silence and labor joined the circle.
The first beat of a drum was abrupt, unexpected and demanded attention. An older scout representing a Native American Warrior recited the story of the order. A torch was lit, and a scout in a loin cloth raced breakneck speed around the unlit bonfire. The torch was thrown into the wood and the flames rose up through the timber. The evening breeze carried the flames ever up engulfing the edifice that took most of a day to construct. Another torch was passed from native brave to brave and to another and another and another. There was drumming and chanting. My heart beat became synchronous with the beat of the drums. Scouts who were to be inducted into the Order of the Arrow were one by one pushed from the circle and caught by their peers. The ritual demonstrated bravery, camaraderie, acceptance, belonging. Another young scout was on the path to the Brotherhood of the Order of the Arrow.
Lesson Learned: Your child does not have to be left out.