By Richard Mabey Jr.
Sometimes we may think that miracles are reserved for burning bushes, or the parting of a sea, or when a man gets swallowed by a whale and survives, or the storming seas are calmed. But perhaps, modern miracles abound all around us, and we just miss seeing them. I personally think that the 1969 New York Mets were a modern miracle.
One such modern miracle unfolded before my very eyes in January of 1986. My father, who was then Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 170, appointed one of the senior scouts, Richard Kwiatkowski, to be the Captain of the Senior Klondike Derby Team. Richard was a very smart boy. He was about 14 years old at the time. He was a rather quiet lad, studious, hard working, and he took scouting very seriously. He had a quiet confidence about him. Richard wasn’t outgoing or dynamic. But, in his own way, he was a very strong leader.
I saw a lot of myself, from when I was that age, in Richard. Obviously, we shared the same first name. We were both quiet and unassuming. We both knew our scouting skills, forward and backward. So, in October of 1985, when Boy Scout Troop 170 began preparing for the big upcoming Klondike Derby, I was very honored to help and guide Richard Kwiatkowski, in his big responsibility of being the Captain of the Senior Klondike Derby Team.
I drew upon my own experience of serving as the Captain of the Senior Klondike Team, from back in January of 1971. I had thought up a distinct philosophy of “divide and conquer.” My plan, back then, was for every scout to be focused and specialized in a very specific scouting skill. The Klondike Derby trail was a rugged six miles. It required the scouts to pull a Klondike sled across the rocky terrain, through the thick forest of the infamous Boy Scout Camp Allamuchy.
There were 12 towns in all. Each town spread apart, almost exactly a half-mile from the next town. As I remember, some of the towns specialized in flag signaling, first aid, nature, pioneering, safety, scout history, knot tying, physical fitness, map and compass, and a few other scouting skills. There were eight scouts on a Klondike Derby Team, and this included the Captain.
I remember sharing my philosophy of “divide and conquer” with Richard Kwiatkowski, back all those years ago. Richard, Dad, and I sat at one of the small folding tables, at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, one Friday evening, after the regular scout meeting. The three of us laid out a very specific plan and chart that assigned each scout, on the Senior Klondike Team, to study to become an expert in one or two very specific scout skills.
And it all worked! In January of 1986, at the official Boy Scout Klondike Derby competition of the Boonton District, Boy Scout Troop 170’s senior team won First Place! To the best of my knowledge, it was the first time a Senior Klondike Derby Team from Boy Scout Troop 170 had won First Place! It was an amazing achievement. You see, the Boonton District consisted of well over 30 scout troops.
At the next Court of Honor of Troop 170, Richard Kwiatkowski presented my dad with the silver pan, First Place Award! It was a far cry from polite applause that followed. The scouts, the Committeemen, the parents, the siblings of the scouts, all loudly applauded, cheered, and whistled out loud, right after Richard presented Dad with the First Place Klondike Derby Silver Pan.
After all the cups and glasses were washed. After everything was cleaned up. Dad, Richard, and I had a little moment of shared, quiet congratulations. And, I remember this all so well, Richard quietly said to my dad, “Mr. Mabey, I learned so much about leadership from you and your son.” Dad looked at Richard and simply said, “you’ve accomplished something great, Richard, you really have.”
As I drove home with Dad that night, my father told me that he was glad to have me part of Troop 170. Dad told me that he was grateful for all the work that I had put in, behind the scenes, to guide Richard Kwiatkowski to become a good leader. I still cherish the memory of that moment.
Today, Richard Kwiatkowski is a professional writer. I am immensely proud of his success. From time to time, we keep in touch via Facebook or email. My father touched the lives of hundreds upon hundreds of men, from when they were scouts of the great Boy Scout Troop 170. Something that, after all these years, still holds a dear and precious place in my heart.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com. Please put on the subject line: My Life Publications.