Diary of a Scout Leader: Attaining Eagle Scout

By Richard Mabey Jr.


I think that earning the rank of Eagle Scout, for me, was one of the greatest achievements of my life. I did not have an easy time of it at all. I was not a very good swimmer. And one particular Swimming Merit Badge Counselor told me that I was wasting his time. That I would never make Eagle Scout. That I was the worst swimmer he had ever seen. This man said this to me in front of about 20 other scouts, who were also going for the Swimming Merit Badge.


Back in the late 1960’s, in order to become an Eagle Scout, a boy had to earn both, the Swimming Merit Badge and the Lifesaving Merit Badge. There were no substitute merit badges and there were no exceptions to that rule.


So, when I was in my sophomore year of high school, I began taking swimming lessons at the YMCA in Paterson. I went to swimming classes, every Wednesday night and every Saturday morning for an entire year. My swimming teacher was also a Merit Badge Counselor, so it worked in my favor. But he was very strict and was not easy on me at all. But I was determined to become an Eagle Scout. Nothing was going to stop me.


I finally earned my Swimming and Lifesaving Merit Badges during the Summer of 1970, just before I began my senior year of high school. A lot of people told me that I should just give up, during my struggles to earn these two difficult merit badges. But, that just made the flame of determination burn even brighter in the chambers of my heart.


Every night I prayed, I earnestly prayed, for God to help me to grow in my skill as a swimmer. I prayed with a deep conviction and a strong faith that God would help me to become a better swimmer. It didn’t happen overnight. But, I did become a fairly good swimmer. I also developed a good amount of skill diving off the diving board. Something, that when I started my swimming lessons at the YMCA, I deeply feared.


Over the years, people have asked me how it was that I found the strength and determination to carry forth through the struggles and roadblocks that I endured on my path to become an Eagle Scout. The answer is that I found a very special place in the woods, behind my house, to pray.


Back before they built the present housing developing at the end of Mabey Lane, there was a path you could walk that led to the old Morris Canal. There, beside the old path, still stood the foundation of the icehouse that my Great Great Grandfather, William Mabey, built around 1830. It was there that I would sit upon the foundation of that old stone icehouse and read my Bible, look out to the still, murky waters of the old canal and pray for the good Lord to give me strength to carry on toward my dream to become an Eagle Scout. It was just that simple.


One of the essential keys to accomplishing a difficult goal in life, is simply this: never give up. Just never, ever give up. Simply roll up your sleeves and give it your best shot. And, if you get knocked down, get up and brush yourself off and start all over again. It really and truly is just that simple.











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