Back from Gilwell, and back to the regular weekly grind this past week. Being a staffer is quite a different experience from being a participant in the BSA's top-level training.
It's a big contrast from weekend I to weekend II - on the first weekend, the staff does everything. We teach, train, demonstrate, and provide everything while the candidates soak it all up. On weekend II, they do everything that we taught them the first time around...and the staff primarily sits and watches.
I saw a lot of old friends - quite a few folks from my own class in 2011 have completed the cycle and made it onto the staff this time. My course Scoutmaster hung around all weekend as a mentor...and my own Troop Guide came down to do a presentation for us. I hadn't seen him since the day my patrol marched out of Gilwell ourselves, so I was very glad of that. Again I was blessed to be in the same room as Dr. Neil Lupton, who I have written about in the past.
On weekend II, your Quartermaster felt a little un-needed, but nevertheless what little equipment we needed was ready at a moment's notice, and I was able to skip around a bit and help where it was necessary. I even had a chance to make a patrol presentation for one of the groups, as there Troop Guide had to miss the second weekend due to factors beyond his control.
Again, the closing ceremony was a solemn affair, and my impressions of the impact of the final farewell are even more powerful from the staff side of things. The Boy Scouts have often been accused of being 'militaristic' by many outsiders, and perhaps we were. But in past years much of that heritage has been toned down. But we as staff did line up along the trail home and saluted the candidates as they passed in review. This made a huge impression on me as a candidate...and I found it to be even more powerful to be the ones doing the saluting.
I can't say what it is...only that those who have not lived and experienced what it means to be a Scout can never truly understand and appreciate what we do...or why we do it.
I have already been asked by another staffer if I would come back next year. My council is not hosting the course next season, and it's being folded around April vacation with just a two-week gap between class weekends. (due to the way the spring religious holidays fall next year.) I don't know if I'm going to do it; I certainly won't come back as Quartermaster.
At our last Troop presentation this past Monday, just before we broke up and headed to the campfire circle for the final ceremony, the presenter made a statement that troubled me for days. It's something I hadn't considered when my own course finished, but I've found it to be true.
Our presenter rather solemnly explained that as we went out for our final Gilwell assembly to take a look around..."Remember who you are with, and remember these experiences. For when we leave this place today, we will never again be together as this group. We may try, but there will be somebody that can't make it; or has moved to Indiana, or has left the program entirely. Right now, in this moment, we are Gilwell Troop 1, but in one hour we will never be so again."
The Bear Patrol of Class N-1-227-11-1 scattered to the four winds when our course broke up...I stay in touch with one member of my patrol; we talk almost every week. One guy I see perhaps once or twice a year. The other two members of my patrol I have seen precisely once in three years. Considering what we all shared at the time...this does make me sad.
But that's the nature of human experience. There are intersecting points in our individual timelines. Sometimes they intertwine and become so enmeshed that we form a new timeline together. But other times, they bounce off each other and we share but one point in time, perhaps the only one, for all eternity. What we do with those intersections defines us...looking at the past can be a good thing, but does trying to return to that past dominate our destinies, or can we take the lessons learned and apply them to the future?