By Barbara Olson
Yesterday, April 20, marked the 15 year anniversary of the Columbine shooting. I remember that day. I cried a lot. My mother’s heart ached deeply as I watched the events that day and over the weeks to come. My son, Chris, was only 4, and I was seven months pregnant with Ben.
As a mom, I wanted to protect my son from knives, guns and gangs. I wanted to instill in him a value for life. I desperately tried to keep all these things out of his life. However, I soon learned that, even if you don’t buy your boy toy guns, he finds sticks and even his own fingers to play out the fantasies of good and evil, of cops and robbers and of conquering and feeling capable. I soon figured out that this was the task of a boy…to be found capable.
So my husband and I entered the journey of Cub Scouts. There, Chris learned knife safety, a structure at camp for bows and arrows, rifles and targets, of making fire, of testing his strength and becoming a capable boy. My mother’s heart still worried, but felt safe with these men guiding our son.
I volunteered to lead his Weeblos pack for two years. That was overwhelming – ever tried to entertain a room full of energetic boys? The mothers and I set about creating fun, educational moments for these boys to explore all kinds of topics and skills. They earned all the pins and belt loops Cub Scouts offered.
Then there was the Cross-over Ceremony. This marked the time when my son would leave Cub Scouts and go on to Boy Scouts…leaving me behind, passing onto the mentoring of men, men of honor, integrity, with a heart to grow these boys into leaders and community servants.
My mother’s heart was nervous letting go of my control and influence, but I just smiled and encouraged him, pretending it was all fine with me. Mr. Atkins, an assistant scoutmaster in Troop 148, was a faithful mentor to my son. He gave him a ride every week. He challenged his poor attitude when it showed up. He schooled him in leadership. He prompted service, integrity, and faithfulness in my son.
Scouts provided a host of merit badges that Chris had to earn in order to move through the six ranks of scouts. These merit badges provided Chris with a taste of a variety of skills, knowledge and career options. He discovered what he was good at, and what he did not enjoy. This experience has helped him sort out what he wants to do in life, what he is passionate about within his heart, and has built character traits far beyond my dreams for my son.
Today, he prepares for another trip to Ensenada, Mexico to build houses for the poor there. He will speak fluent Spanish with them and be immersed in their culture – a delight for Chris! This June, he finishes the Instructors Program at Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall. This fall, he will complete an EMT course and then move on to become a paramedic. He hopes to travel the world as a paramedic, helping in natural disasters. One day he’ll open up his own Wilderness School.
My mother’s heart is calm now. He made it. No Columbine experience for him. I credit the scouting experience with Troop 148, his mentors at scouts and his mentors at the wilderness programs for this. The impact of mentoring on a boy’s life can never be undervalued, the impact never underestimated….it is truly life changing. I release into this world a man of integrity, leadership, passion, high energy, follow-through, with a fabulous work ethic, and of great courage. Yes, he is very capable….a delight to his mother’s heart.