Like many a ten-year-old, price I had serious intentions of growing up to be MacGyver. In careful preparation and anticipation, I would religiously tune the television to USA network each week for the latest lesson by the heroic, mullet-sporting creative guru. Wide-eyed and popcorn-mouthed, I’d sit transfixed as he effortlessly solved survivalist problems with chewing gum, duct tape, lightbulb filaments, fishing line, and (always) his trusty Swiss Army Knife. He was magnificent.
One birthday, on the dawn of adolescence, my parents presented me with my first Swiss Army knife. The Camping model. Perfect crimson plastic handle housing blades and can openers and a saw and a screwdriver, tweezers and a toothpick and emblazoned with the proud Victorinox seal. It was an object of beautiful utility, and clung to my person as loyally as socks and underwear every morning when I readied for school where it was decidedly unwelcome but its presence quietly ignored by my teachers.
It found daily use cutting paper and sharpening pencils, or tightening the occasional screw or fixing one’s eyeglasses. But it thrived to its fullest when I toted it about with my Boy Scout troop on camping, hiking, and backpacking trips throughout the backwoods of central Pennsylvania.
My feelings on the organization that is the Boy Scouts of America are confusing (to me, anyway) and somewhat strained. I was privileged (a massive understatement) to be ignorant of many of the issues I’ve since found with the BSA. My troop was a special one, comprising scouts and leaders who were strong, smart, selfless, open-minded, and genuinely caring for all: embodying concepts of civil and self betterment, adventure, and creative exploration as opposed to homophobia and oppressive extremist conservatism that much (though not all) of the organization has revealed itself to stand for in the last couple of decades. Still, it is the sum of my experiences with my own troop that form my yet hopeful opinion of Scouting. Many of the skills I acquired, from camping to first aid, proficiency with knots, leadership, humility, and “team spirit,” I directly attribute to my path of achievements from beginning as a six-year-old tiger cub to being proudly honored as an Eagle Scout at seventeen. In fact, perhaps it’s that I had such a strong and character-shaping experience with scouting that has driven me to look at it (and all organizations–political, social, religious, communal) for what it is: a series of ideals that look good on paper until they get inevitably corrupted by humans. In my case, Scouting developed my patience, made me a more effective leader, increased my confidence, and challenged my creativity regularly, all so as to pave a sturdy path towards becoming MacGyver.
To this day, I still carry a knife (though have graduated to a Gerber multi-tool as hardly a day goes by where I can’t think of a reason to use pliers.) And to this day, scouting is one of the few youth organizations for which I still do shows. Every February, as a means of tipping my hat to the life-forming experiences I had, I perform a show or two for a local Cub Scout Blue & Gold Banquet. I talk briefly but fondly of my time as a Scout and how it helped me become the life-loving adventurer that I continue to be today.