Recently a friend on Facebook told a story about a CPR class he attended. The instructor showed in detail how to do it, and a Mormon guy in the class sheepishly asked, “Uh, what if it’s a lady?” The instructor incredulously paused, and then said “I really don’t think she’ll mind, since you’re saving her life.” The Mormon dude seemed unconvinced.
This story reminded me of one of my early scout leaders, a woman named Betty Budrow, who passed away a few years ago. (I had remembered her as my first boy scout leader, but after conferring with a friend I guess she actually was our Webelos leader.) Anyway, she taught us CPR, among other things, like pressure points. We had to show her that we understood the pressure points by applying the correct pressure on her. This was a little awkward at first, since as I recall one of the points was high up on the thigh, but her matter-of-fact attitude about it, like the CPR instructor in the above story, helped us to get over ourselves.
I had to smile when I thought of Betty. She was a cracker jack scout leader, and absolute hell on wheels. I learned so much about camping and hiking and the outdoors and first aid and really everything you’re supposed to learn as a scout from her. She was extremely knowledgeable, no nonsense like a drill sergeant, passionate about the subject (she and her husband always camped for their vacations), and really the ideal scout leader. She was awarded the Silver Beaver, which as I understand it is one of the highest awards a scouter can attain, so it’s not just my youthful impression of her prowess in that area.
As I think about it now, it seems so obvious to me that she should have been our scoutmaster. Undoubtedly the only reason she wasn’t is that she was a woman. If she were a man that would have been her permanent, lifetime calling.
When talking with my childhood friend, he reminded me of something else. The guy who was our first scoutmaster turned out to be a rapist. Fortunately for me at least, not a pedophile, but the guy on the weekends would drive the two hours to the east into the City of Chicago and actually rape women. He went to prison for it.
So here we had a situation where one of the most capable leaders imaginable (and I mean in the entire church) was there for the taking, but because she was a woman she could not be given the spot, which instead was given to a man who turned out to be a rapist.
This situation called to mind the South Park episode from Season 5 in which Big Gay Al is transferred in as the boys’ scout leader. Because he’s gay he’s removed as the leader, and they install instead a guy who looks like he came out of central casting as a scout leader, but who also happens to be a pedophile. In my case, the good leader was a woman, not gay, and the bad leader was a rapist, not a pedophile, but basically my own experience mirrored that story.
My only point in writing this reminiscence is to honor the memory of Betty, and to suggest that any protocol that would keep someone like her from being a scoutmaster is seriously messed up.