Boy Scouts taking a welcome stand on diversity and tolerance

Looks like it’s not your daddy’s Boy Scouts anymore.

In recent years, the Boy Scouts of America has leapt feet-first into the 21st century with bold and controversial policy changes.

In 2013, it began permitting, for the first time, openly gay boys to join the Scouts.

Two years later, it took another major step, allowing openly gay men to become Scout-masters, while adding that church-related Scout organizations may select leaders in line with their precepts.

And in January, the BSA made another earth-shaking move, saying transgender boys would be allowed to join; the gender written on an application would be the deciding factor, not a birth certificate.

The Scouts have become so progressive that now women are asking to be admitted, noting they serve in combat and serve in top level positions in government, business and academia. Well, actually, they want to join so women can become Eagle Scouts and put that on their resumes like the men do.

So far, the BSA is cool to the idea, but I’m warning you: If women become Boy Scouts, Lady Eagles will soon be soaring high above us and a few boys will be selling cookies.

I frankly had not thought about my own Scouting experiences until a couple weeks ago.

As the BSA celebrated its 107th birthday, the rector at my church had a question: `”How many of you were Boy Scouts?”

My hand went up along with several others and for the first time in decades I thought about my own scatter-shot Boy Scout days.

I was a Scout for two or three years, but I was never very good one.

Well, for instance, in those years I don’t remember earning a merit badge. I only watched in awe and admiration as friends stacked up piles of badges.

I loved baseball and other sports, but I could never figure out how to tie a half hitch, much less a clover hitch.

I attended camps regularly and loved every one of them. Of course, my most vivid memory is pretty sad: My futile struggle to start a fire for my Van Camp’s pork and beans, then eating them cold.

One good thing from scouting was Boy’s Life magazine, my first magazine subscription ever. I literally read it cover to cover.

There were weekly meetings, of course, but my attendance record was pretty spotty.

Looking back, I think I joined mainly to get out of the house on a school night. Sometimes I’d go to meetings, sometimes I’d meet fellow scofflaws to participate in minor acts of juvenile delinquency. No, I’m not proud of it.

I think I never understood, in my misguided youth, the importance of the Boy Scouts.

Over the years, I treated it as immune, maybe even irrelevant, to the greater social issues of the day, but today it is clear that the Boy Scouts are taking a firm, courageous and welcome stand on diversity and tolerance.

I’m proud to raise my hand as a former Scout. I only wish now that I had been a better one.

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.