Like a lot of people, when I signed up for Wood Badge in 2002, I had really no idea what the course was about or what really to expect out of it. My good friend, and staff member of SR501, Everett Winn, had been trying to get me to commit to participating for some time. After having him shoot down all of my excuses, I finally signed up, and on a beautiful September morning, I walked in to the Cub Camp Dining Hall and started my Wood Badge experience. Little did I know how such a simple thing as attending a Boy Scout training course would change my life in so many ways.
When I walked in that morning, I was told to sit at Table #1. What? Assigned seats? “I’m out of here” was the thought forming in my brain. Being an early bird, I was first to arrive at my table and then quietly waited for what was to come. As my tablemates began to show, I would soon be introduced to a rather chatty college professor, a stay-at-home mom, a salesman, a self-employed guy that installed home theater systems, and then finally an architect. Working in the commercial construction industry, I was happy to have at least one person with whom I had a little something in common. I quickly found that as a Cub Leader from Battlefield, I was among folks from other Districts and leaders from the Venturing and Boy Scout programs. I had some friends sitting at another table, maybe I can go sit with them….no, not allowed, darn!
What I was experiencing, and would learn more about later, was that I was now part of a diverse group that was expected to come together, share ideas and experiences, and work together to accomplish an ever-growing list of tasks. How could we be “diverse” when we were clearly lacking people of color or different cultures or even ancestry? Did I tell you I wanted to go sit with my friends yet? Still not allowed, shoot! As the day progressed, we did in fact start to get to know each other better and our strengths and weakness began to become evident and we, as a team, started to use those strengths and weaknesses to our advantage. Somewhere along the way, I started enjoying the company I was keeping and no longer felt the need to change tables; the great exception to this feeling being that rather chatty red haired Professor.
As that day turned into the weekend, I noticed that some amazing things were happening in the room. First, there were 47 others in a total of eight groups all going through the same teambuilding process. The other groups also looked like they were comprised of a bunch of diverse backgrounds as well. That changing table thing might not have worked out so well after all! The groups had assumed their own identities and were becoming very supportive not only of their own members but also of the larger group of groups. Perhaps the most interesting thing to me was that I was actually starting to a like being in my group with Professor Bill.
And so it came to pass that on the camping portion of our Wood Badge experience, Professor Bill and I found ourselves talking more about life, scouts, our sons, and a lot more. On a very warm afternoon we even got to spend some lovely time picking up acorns for a conservation project. While grousing about the task the whole time, I doubt either of us were aware we were also cementing a friendship that would last the Wood Badge course and far beyond. If fact, many friendships were made in our group and among the larger group as well. At a beautiful campfire the last night of the course, we all got a moment to say how much the course had meant to us and about the friendships we had made.
Over the years, I was lucky and privileged enough to be given the opportunity to serve on four Wood Badge staffs. In those experiences, I have been blessed to have met and become friends with so many fantastic Scouters, both on the staffs and among the participants. What still awes me the most is to watch others grow as individuals and team members just like what happened to me back in 2002. I look forward to seeing that happen again as Course S7-602-12 develops and comes to life. Perhaps one of the things I look forward to the most is the opportunity to work closely once again with great staffers and in particular my very dear friend, the rather chatty and red haired Professor Bill Eggleston.
So that’s what sometimes happens with Wood Badge. One minute you walk into a building having no idea what you are there for and then, the next thing you know, you have a whole lot of new friends and a whole new appreciation for all of those around you and what you do in Scouting. All it takes is an open mind, or close to it as you can get, some time, and some great Wood Badge magic. I can’t wait!
Craig Britt, Course Mentor