The early sixties. An era of thick-rimmed glasses, beehive hair-dos, Andy Griffith episodes, and too much eye-makeup.
The sixth-graders made fun of Greg Ford. Nobody could even tell you why. Maybe because he was a soft-spoken kid.
Maybe because kids will be kids.
Greg lived with his father on the poor side of town. His mother left them long ago. Nobody heard from her again.
Young Greg talked about her sometimes, but he was only repeating stories he’d heard from his father. He couldn’t remember her.
He wore a key on a shoestring around his neck. The key to his front door. The other children teased him about that.
Like I said. Kids.
A teacher made him wear the key around his neck after he lost it once. The last thing Greg Ford needed was to wait on a porch-step until dark for his father to get home from the mill.
Anyway, the story here isn’t about keys, or childhood bullies. It’s about the day Greg found a copy of the Boy Scout Manual on the school bus. He took it home and read it cover to cover.
He asked his father if he could join the Scouts. His father told Greg it wasn’t in the cards.
His father was a good man. The kind who had no extra time between mill-whistles. Thursday night Scout meetings were impossible. He drove long commutes, worked overtime, his hateful boss ran him raw. He barely found time for supper.
Thus, Greg carried the Scout Manual with him. He read it often. He learned about campfire safety, water safety, identifying bear tracks, and how to handle the American flag.
“He never put the manual down,” one classmate remembers. “Was like his security blanket, he really wanted to be a Scout.”
Which broke his teacher’s heart. She looked into taking Greg to meetings herself, but she had a busy family life. Meeting times couldn’t have been more inconvenient—they were held at suppertime in the Baptist church.
So, she approached a troop leader. She asked if he could adjust the weekly meeting. He told her it was impossible. So, she asked if they’d consider holding assemblies in the school gymnasium so Greg could attend.
He reluctantly agreed.
And on one Thursday afternoon, after class, she took Greg out for a hamburger without explaining why.
When she carried him back to school, they walked empty halls toward the gymnasium, her arm around him.
The double doors opened. A crowd of Scouts and three Scout leaders greeted Greg with a big, “Welcome, Greg!”
A man presented Greg with a pocketknife, a uniform, a wide-brimmed hat, and a brand new manual with “GREG” written on the cover.
But Greg’s face wasn’t as happy as it should have been.
“What’s the matter?” His teacher asked.
Greg shrugged and said he wished his father had been there to see it.
He was in luck.
From the back of the room came a man who’d quit his job just to be there. A man who answered to the name, “Daddy.”
They swore in a new troop leader that night.
And Greg just wanted me to tell you about it.
Pam Speer - June 9, 2017 2:21 pm
I think you are making me a better person.
Charlotte - June 9, 2017 6:52 pm
I think you’re right Pam!
Sarah Lepore - June 9, 2017 2:23 pm
Crying again, but not sad, happy. How do you do that? Enjoyed.
Carole - August 6, 2017 5:21 pm
I love your stories and the way you write. They are all so excellent, sweet and touching. I cry, and laugh and love every one of them! You bring joy to this world, (my granddaughter tells me I use too many comma’s, too), and you are my favorite author! God bless you!
Jeannie - June 9, 2017 2:49 pm
Now that is an amazing example of what a good parent should be!!! Greg was really a lucky boy!! And that is what amazing teachers do!! Greg was really a lucky boy!!
Brian Stubbs - June 9, 2017 2:50 pm
Please don’t stop doing what you are doing. Our world needs more people like you – a reason to believe in people and that we are not in fact on a fast track to hell.
Deb smith - June 9, 2017 2:59 pm
Sometimes you just need a dose of common decency to go on with your day. Thanks for this thoughtful memory. Love starting my day with you Sean.
Jack Quanstrum - June 9, 2017 3:17 pm
Sean you put a smile on my face this morning with your story. As usual your stories cut through all my layers and goes straight to my hear. Thank you for touching my hurt in a real and inspiring way. It brings to mind my own personal experience with the Boy Scouts handbook. It was the early 60s for me and I took it to bed with me every night reading it until I fell asleep. It would be on my chest in the morning when I woke up. It was my first bible and the gospel was, ” Be Prepared”. My involvement in scouts motivated me and transformed me. I became Patrol Leader and achieved star scout status. At a time when I was I was being picked on and beat up, it gave me the inner strength of self reliance and the ability to work with others that carried me through my many years of struggle. Yesterday’s post was grateful, written by you. Thank you again for both posts. I am grateful today for scouting, for that period of my life God used it to carry me in His arms. I am also grateful for your writings for they help me to realize that God is at work in all of our lives daily but we sometimes don’t know it until we look back. Thank you God for creating Sean, for he was and is wonderfully and fearfully made.
Lilli Ann Snow - June 13, 2017 3:25 pm
Karen - June 9, 2017 3:36 pm
What a great story Sean…I know a Boy Scout leader well and I will share with him. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story!! Keep writing …you are great, Such a pleasure to read!!!
Nita Stacey - June 9, 2017 3:50 pm
There you go! Making me cry again.
Camille Atkins - June 9, 2017 4:44 pm
Sean, I had to give up mascara in order to read your posts, so as not to look like a raccoon!
Susan in Georgia - June 9, 2017 5:20 pm
Bless you for sharing this story. Just goes to remind me that we are to be kind to everyone we meet because everybody carries a burden. It’s the kind word and/or acts of kindness that sometimes saves a life of the one just about to drown in sorrows, troubles, and heartaches.
Lynda Gayle Knight - June 9, 2017 6:44 pm
??Thanks for telling Greg’s story!!
Janet Mary Lee - June 9, 2017 7:37 pm
I had to re-read the ending twice, just to make sure I got it. I do not know anyone who would give up their job to do that, today. I sure would like to know “the rest of the story” , as another very talented person would have said!!! – Keep them coming…and thanks…
Sam Hunneman - June 9, 2017 8:50 pm
Oh man… exercising my tear ducts one more time, Sean.
Curran Bowen - June 9, 2017 8:57 pm
As a Scoutmaster, I often wonder what in the world have I gotten myself into…this reminds me. Thank you!
Linda - June 9, 2017 9:56 pm
Wow. One of your many bests.
Bobbie - June 9, 2017 10:12 pm
I’m so glad you told us….made my day!
Teri Freeman Butler - June 10, 2017 4:53 am
There’s nothing love won’t do, is there? God bless his dad for being there. I read your posts because I love your thoughts and the way you express them. But I also read them every day because they help keep me human. When I grow weary of the mean spirits I encounter at every turn and tire of the ones who tell me there is no hope for our future, it is a blessing to read of the kindnesses and compassions that still exist. Thanks.
Peg - June 10, 2017 2:18 pm
Leaves me speechless (through tear-wet eyes), except, “amazing”!!!!
Linda - June 11, 2017 3:48 pm
Wow! Dads and teachers….the BEST!
Deanna J - July 30, 2017 1:42 pm
Steve Sandlin - July 30, 2017 2:29 pm
Starting out as a Cub Scout, progressing through Boy Scouts and becoming an Explorer Scout and earning my Eagle, made me a better man as an adult. I can remember scouts like Greg who wore hand me down uniforms simply because their family couldn’t afford to buy new ones. Just like Greg these boys loved Scouting.
Dianne - July 30, 2017 2:58 pm
Tears and Smiles. Thank you
E.Huntley - July 30, 2017 3:13 pm
Your stories always make me happy and thankful for the blessings we have.
Ben smith - July 30, 2017 5:01 pm
Steve Winfield - July 31, 2017 1:16 am
My dad raised my brother & I by himself. Always worked about 3 jobs but made time for scouts, little league, school activities. He taught me a lot of things. Mainly, he taught me how to love somebody. I’ll always wonder if that was his intention.
Annette Bailey - August 1, 2017 9:09 am
What a good kid…and what a good Dad. These things happen and it’s hard on so many kids. I wish I could save every kid out there who wasn’t blessed to have parents like mine. We didn’t have much but I had 3 brothers, 2sisters, and a set of parents that anyone would be blessed to have. Threes weeks ago, we lost Mom. Dad died back in 2005 and I thought that was hard. But losing Mom has even more difficult than I could imagined. Mom finally died of cancer. It was very hard to see her suffer but she never complained…never. But I know she’s in heaven…with Dad, her parents, her sister and two brothers. Miss you Mom….you were the best. Dad would have quit his job to for any of us. It’s just the kind of man he was.
Susan Parker - December 29, 2017 10:09 am
You made me think of my Mama, who worked it out between herself and Daddy so she could quit her job for me. She was a substitute teacher, and found that she no longer had patience with me after corraling the increasingly unruly kids all day. May God bless the parents who quit their jobs for all the right reasons! Thanks for jogging my memory, Sean!
Mary Pat Gallagher - January 28, 2018 3:46 pm
My mom died when I was seven. She was very sick from the time she was pregnant with me. I’m about to turn 60, and I remember clearly the night my dad told me I could join the Brownies (the first level of becoming a Girl Scout). I vividly remember dancing around with him in pure joy! It’s impossible to overstate how much those organizations can mean to a lonely child…
Kathryn - January 19, 2019 6:30 pm
My eyes just started leaking!
Bob Banks - January 20, 2019 12:04 am
This olf Scout thanks you.