A Lesson in Life
By George W. J. Laidlaw
Sometimes the things Cub Scouts learn are not found in handbooks.
Returning to school and the monotony of homework puts a damper on my life. It's Cub Scout activities that keep me going. Three events are special: the apple sale, the bake sale, and the newspaper drive.
A smart entrepreneur can make money and be recognized as the best Cub Scout of the year.
"Listen up!" says Akela (Mr. Barnheart, our Cub Scout leader). "Remember, you are representatives of your community and Cub Scouting. I want to be proud of you when you're out there today selling your apples."
I have heard all that dumb stuff before, on attitude, deportment, and the importance of helping others. Akela's too old; he just doesn't understand.
Bobby Sharp and I are working the shopping mall. Image is important. Being polite and friendly can generate tips from the old folks. We sell 248 apples and make $89.
I make $6.50 in tips. There is always a way of turning a profit.
The bake sale attracts people from all over. It is our most profitable money-earning project, and I intend to get the prize for best salesman.
For example, I know what to do when people don't want to wait in line for change from the cash register.
"Thanks, Mrs. Godard, that's $6.55. Can you wait for me to get change?"
"Oh, no. Just keep it."
I sell $121.35, the best of the Cub Scouts and $4.85 more than the next kid. At least that's what I report, although I kind of overestimate the first three or four sales, which are actually five or six dollars less.
But I don't feel guilty. You see, I'm just looking out for myself.
And I make eight dollars in tips!
The paper drive is late in the fall, but the day is hotter than usual. Using four rented trucks, we collect bundles of old newspapers from homes in area communities and take them to be weighed at the recycling center.
It is hard work picking up newspapers and heaving them into the truck. We weigh the loaded truck at the depot on a drive-on-scale. Then we unload the newspapers and reweigh the empty truck to determine the newsprint's weight.
By the third load, I'm exhausted.
Jerry, the driver, helps us. He knows how hard we've been working.
"Hey, kid, can you do something for me?" he asks.
"What do you want?"
"I need you to pick up something at a food store in the shopping mall two blocks from here."
But I don't want to run any errands. Can't he see I'm wiped out?
"I don't feel like it!"
"Come on, kid. I can't leave the truck; where's your Cub Scout spirit?!"
I won't do something for nothing. I'm a realist. Doing Good Turns is out of it.
Then my monetary mind clicks in. Maybe I could get something out of his request.
"Hold onif I do it, what's in it for me?"
He looked at me in an odd manner, isolating me. I didn't like it.
"All right, bright boy, I'll give you a Coke. Is that O.K.?"
"It's a deal!"
He hands me money to buy some cough drops and six soft drinks. I know he has a bad cold, so maybe he is really thirsty.
But I don't care what he wants or why. I am getting a free drink out of it.
I've learned to look out for No. 1. There is never a free ride. Considerate people are losers. I'm too smart for that.
I walk to the food store and buy the cough drops and the drinks. The stiffness from heaving the bundles of papers eases from my muscles. The walk has done my body good.
"Here, Jerry. I got everything you asked for."
Taking the drinks and cough drops, he puts two drops in his mouthwhile scrutinizing me with his dark eyes.
He hands me the bottle of soda I've earned. "Take your drink."
The other Cub Scouts are watching me. What are they looking at? It's not my problem if they are thirsty, too. This is my drink.
Jerry walks away. I watch as the distance isolates me.
He goes up to the other Cub Scouts and hands each one a bottle of soda.
"Here, guys. Grab a drink. You've earned it!"
George W. J. Laidlaw lives in Carp, Ontario. "This story is true," he assures us, "and I must confess it happened to me."
May-June 2001 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2001 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.