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Issue 377 – December 28, 2013

It’s 9:15 Saturday morning. The Scout should be arriving momentarily; he’s earned Communications merit badge, so I’m hoping his counselor added to his knowledge—but not the requirements—by letting him know the best way to show respect when you make an appointment with anyone is to arrive ten minutes early—especially since this also gives you nine minutes of “wiggle room” in case you get hung up along the way. The appointment the Scout set—his schedule and his decision, by the way—was for 9:30, so the clock’s about to start ticking.

My phone rings. It’s the Scout. “Uh, Mister Andy,” he begins, “I’m gonna be a little late. My mother has to drop my little brother off at the ice skating rink first, and then she’ll bring me to your house. I should be there by 10:30.”

10:30, I’m thinking. 10:30’s an hour late. I’d planned on spending an hour with him because, at 10:30, I need to leave for an appointment of my own. “10:30?” I reply. “Scout, that’s not going to work. My day’s already crowded. We’ll have to cancel today, and reschedule for another day and time.”

“Aw, but today’s the only day I can meet with you!” he tells me. “My parents really want me to complete this merit badge with you.”

Oh, really, I’m wondering. If this is so important to his parents, why in the world would his mother interfere with her son’s pre-set schedule? “Did your mother know, yesterday, when you made this appointment, that we’d agreed on 9:30?” I ask him.

“Oh, yeah, she knew,” he tells me. “But my brother has to get to the rink on time, ’cause he’s with a group and that’s their start-time.”

Doesn’t this Scout, and his mother, know that he has a start-time too? And that start-time is 9:30?

“Did your mother consider dropping you off first, early, and then getting your brother to his ice skating thing?” I ask him.

“Oh, yeah. But she got a late start and couldn’t do that.” Now I can hear the panic rising in his voice.

“Okay, Scout, tell you what… How about later this afternoon? Say around 2:30?” I figure I can juggle my own schedule and create a window for him, if I make a couple of quick phone calls myself.

“Hey, thanks, Mister Andy!” The cheer returns to his voice. “I can do that! I’ll see you at 2:30, for sure!”

So that’s what happened, and all went well.

But did I make a mistake? Should I have spoken to his mother, telling her that her son made an appointment, cleared it with her beforehand, and it’s her absolute responsibility to assure that he’s not put in a situation such as she created? Or would that have simply made this Scout the victim and me the “bad guy”?

I honestly don’t know. But I do know this: When a parent patently disregards his or her son’s commitment to a scheduled meeting, that parent is teaching more than a disregard of a schedule…more than a disregard of a commitment. This is teaching disregard of other human beings.

Is there a New Year’s resolution here…?


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 377 – 12/28/2013 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2013]


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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