Diary of a Scout Leader: Reflections at Thorpe Hall

By Richard Mabey Jr.


Our story so far:

It is the first day of summer vacation of 1969. I am 15 years old and have just completed my sophomore year at Boonton High School. It is nearing high noon and I have spent the entire morning painting Thorpe Hall of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, for my Eagle Scout project. After eating my lunch, a man comes to the door and begins banging on the door and demanding that I let him in. Fortunately, I had locked the door. I try to huddle out of sight of this man, who is continuing to hammer on the door and scream for someone to let him in. Shortly after that, my mom knocks on the door of Thorpe Hall. My sister, Patti, is with Mom. I clean up and we all go to Moe’s Sweet Shop. Cute Mary Tafano is at Moe’s. To my utter surprise, Mary asks me to her birthday party on Saturday. Later that afternoon, I help Mom to get supper ready, while my sister Patti plays in the yard, with her neighborhood friend. After supper, Dad comes into my room, while I am at my desk and offers words of encouragement and hope to me. Morning comes, Dad drives me to Thorpe Hall on his way to work. In Thorpe Hall that morning, I hand write an essay, “What Scouting Means to Me.” My plan was to give it to Mr. Marino, Editor of the Lincoln Park Herald, for him to publish. Our story continues.

 As I painted the interior walls of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church’s infamous Thorpe Hall, I dwelt upon the essay I had just written about what scouting meant to me. I had placed it in my shirt pocket, close to my heart. My plan was to type it up that night and present it to Mr. Marino, Editor of the Lincoln Park Herald, the next morning. At the time, I had no idea that the hand-written essay abiding in my shirt pocket was going to change my life.

As I continued to paint the walls, I welcomed the quiet and solace of Thorpe Hall. There was no television and no radio playing. There was a certain stillness, a solitude that welcomed thought and reflection.

How is it that a moment in one’s life, will return to heart, mind and spirit, without any warning? And, in those moments of reflection, insight into one’s self will seem to flow into the deepest chambers of heart and mind, bringing one to a greater understand of their unique Divine calling, their purpose of breathing and living upon this planet.

As I painted, I reflected upon my very early childhood. Mom and Dad had rented a home on Hazel Street in Clifton. I remember that it had a little backyard for me to play in. The two-story home was divided into three separate apartments. My dad had built a little blackboard desk for me. I would spend hours upon hours at this little desk, while my mom cleaned and cooked supper, before Dad came home from work.

I was a very shy, quiet, sensitive child. My mom often told me that I had a most wild and vivid imagination, even at a very, very young age. Mom also often told me how I would write stories at my desk, even at the age of two, drawing stick figures. I would draw each little scene in a little block then tell Mom the story that I had just dreamt up. They say that you’re not supposed to remember moments when you’re as young as two, but I do remember writing at my little blackboard desk at such a very young age.

Each and every one of us has a Divine gift, that is uniquely ours. It is ingrained in our DNA. It is something that is very sacred. Sometimes, we try to deny it, to avoid it, but it seems that our unique Divine gift will call us back, again and again. It is likened to the tides of the deep blue sea. Sometimes it comes upon the sandy shores, at full force. At other times, it seems to retreat. To allow us to go our own way, but then it returns once again, stronger than ever.

For me, I know in my heart of hearts, that my Divine gift is putting words down on paper. To tell a story. Most of them true stores. But none-the-less, to tell a story. As I painted Thorpe Hall that afternoon, all I could think about was to be in my bedroom, at my desk, typing up the essay that I had written earlier that day. At the time, I had no idea that that very hand-written essay, in my shirt pocket, was going to have a very profound effect upon my life.

To be continued.

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@gmail.com. Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line.



#1:   Little Richie Jim, yours truly, when I was just two years old, at my chalkboard desk that my dad had made for me, writing a stick figure story that I would tell to my mom, when I was done.



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