Tuesday, July 15, 2008


If there is one intransmutable law of nature that defines my life, it must be a vindication of Newton's First Law of Motion. The Law of Inertia states that a body in motion will stay in motion and that a body at rest will stay at rest. For me it's all about change. While most people are afraid of change, I love to act as an agent or catalyst of change. It's what makes life so interesting to me, but I must admit it does have its fallout from time to time. One of the reasons I got so involved in Boy Scouting is that it serves to make young boys into responsible young men and I can see these changes in a relatively short order. These days it is a sad fact that many parents are so involved with their work and other social networking that their kids are left to do a lot of growing up on their own. The pecking order of pre-teens and teenagers can be very cruel without several safety nets put into place that allow them to just be themselves. It seems to me that Scouting is one of those activities that keeps boys (and sometimes girls, in the case of Venturing) safely involved and committed to a set or series of goals. It becomes evident that these goals, which are closely allied with achievements of rank like First Class, Star, Life and Eagle become essential formulas for success in later life for many of these Scouts. The other evening at the JCC gym, I was pedaling my stationary bicycle and looked up at the young man doing the same adjacent to me. I recognized him as one of my former Scouts. He is one of my son's classmates, a 22 year-old recent graduate of Harvard University, who is in New Orleans for a short summer before leaving to work as a foreign exchange trader at Goldman Sachs in New York. I remember how he was hounded as a kid, even by some of our Scouts, because he was different. He was always thinking about something, but one could tell there was a lot of cogent thought going on in his head. One night, during one of my Scout meetings when the other Scouts were playing ball, he asked me to "explain" Judaism as a religious concept to him. He was asking from the standpoint of an inquisitive Christian who needed to know in his mind where and how Judaism could exist without accepting Jesus as the Messiah. His school was full of boys and girls and faculty members who were Jewish. Yet, he felt compelled to ask me. I am not sure if my carefully chosen words were as well crafted as those that might be given by a rabbi or other Jewish lay leader, but he seemed satisfied with the answers I gave him. I believe a child should always be answered with truthful answers, but that discretion should temper the truth should it be too painful to hear. Invariably, there are those questions in life which cannot be answered without peril. "Do these pants make me look fat?" is a good example of a question whose best response is a quick dash for the door. In any event, I am so glad to have been a small part of this young man's early, formative years. He might well have become a Harvard graduate without me, his Scoutmaster or the other adult members of his troop. But I would like to think that we all helped to shape him into a responsible, independent member of society and that kind of change, as Martha Stewart would quip, is a good thing. It's part of the small changes that we can all undertake every day to make life memorable and satisfying.

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