My original column, “The Incredible Power of Encouragement” as it appeared in The Weekly News back in late July of 1998.
The Incredible Power of Encouragement
By Richard Mabey Jr.
Encouragement, it’s an incredible power. Back in July of 1998, I was 44 years old and writing for The Weekly News. TWN was a weekly regional newspaper that was circulated throughout the northeast New Jersey area. I was blessed to have a lot of freedom as to the subjects that I chose to write about. The subject of the positive power of encouragement was near and dear to my heart.
I used the background of Boy Scout Summer Camp, and a true story of one scout’s need for encouragement, to illustrate the incredible power of encouragement.
I remember when I was writing this column for TWN, I was struggling to find an example of the incredible power of encouragement. At the time, I was working at an advertising agency, specifically working on an account for a chain of restaurants that advertises that it has finger lickin’ chicken. It was a big advertising agency. My fellow coworkers were not that nice to me at all. But, it led me to look for work in a smaller ad agency, which I was blessed to find. On my lunch hour, I used to work on writing stories, weekly columns and essays for TWN.
As I thought more and more about the theme of the incredible power of encouragement, my mind continued to drift to my own days as a scout and the fun that I had camping out at Camp Allamuchy.
It was so very strange. I often simply doodle on paper, when I’m struggling with a column or article. I remember this moment in time, so very well. I was eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich at my desk, sipping hot tea and I kept drawing A-frame tents, the type that Boy Scout Troop 170 had. It was almost as though I had not thought up the idea, of a true life scout memory, by my own conscious effort. Rather, the framework for this story flowed out to my conscious mind from the deepest depths of my subconscious mind.
It was druing my lunch hour breaks at Cold Hearted Advertising Agency, that my heart and mind kept thinking of the endearing encouragement that my beloved father gave to so very many of the good scouts of Boy Scout Troop 170.
When I look back on the prep work that I did for this specific column, it comes back to me of how dear to my heart this true story really was. This was the story, the true story, of how my Dad went out of his way, stood up to this rather tough minded Merit Badge Counselor, and insisted that he give this young scout a second chance to receive the Indian Lore Merit Badge. It was such a perfect example of how much my father cared about each and every scout of Boy Scout Troop 170.
There was undeniably something very special about Boy Scout Troop 170. There was a very real bond of brotherhood between all of the adult scout leaders and between all of the scouts. The scouts held true respect for the scout leaders. And, the scout leaders worked hard so that the scouts would have a good scouting experience.
In my TWN column, “The Incredible Power of Encouragement,” I changed the real name of the scout to Billy. In this true story, Billy has gotten turned down by the Indian Lore Merit Badge Counselor to receive this merit badge. The bulk of the problem is that this particular Merit Badge Counselor did not feel that Billy’s miniature Indian village was good enough. Sometimes, I do think that SOME of the Merit Badge Counselors, at summer camp, were too strict with the scouts.
Looking back, I am so glad that I had written the line, “my father did not give up on the young scout.” Essentially, it defined my Dad’s philosophy on scouting. Dad never gave up on any scout!
Because of my Dad’s tough minded determination, that Billy be given a second chance to submit his miniature Indian village, Billy was able to be called up at the next Boy Scout Court of Honor to receive the Indian Lore Merit Badge. This was a big deal for Billy. His mom and dad were called up to stand behind Billy, as he was honored with this merit badge. Sometimes, SOME Merit Badge Counselors did not fully understand that all boys have different skill levels. That there is something to be said for a scout doing his honest best on a merit badge project, even if it does not come out picture perfect.
My dear father served as Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 170 for over 25 years. He loved scouting. My father did not always go by the book, but he always went by the heart. He saw the primary purpose of the scouting movement was to guide boys to grow to become good men.
It is so strange how things go. From early 1998 till the end of 1999, I worked at this very big ad agency. It was a nightmare. My boss was this very cruel hearted woman who used profanity a lot, constantly hollered at the dozen or so people that worked for her, and loved to put people down. I realize now, how important it was to have my regular column at The Weekly News. In so very many ways, it was my ministry in the midst of working for this very mean-spirited woman.
In the Year 2000, I began working in the Editorial Department of a much smaller advertising agency. I had a much nicer boss and I was much happier.
I think that writing for The Weekly News, particularly from 1998 till 1999, was so very therapeutic for me. I had a wonderful editior, Ms. Judy Lutolf. She gave me a great deal of artistic freedom, in terms of what I wrote about in my column. I often drew upon my remembrances of scouting to bring home a good and wholesome theme.
It was a proud moment when Billy was called up at the Boy Scout Troop 170 Court of Honor and was presented his Indian Lore Merit Badge.
Returning to the true story of Billy earning the Indian Lore Merit Badge. As I was writing this blog today, it occurred to me, more and more that writing my column about Billy’s struggle to earn his Indian Lore Merit Badge helped me to find the courage and where-with-all to deal with the horrible boss that I had at the first ad agency that I worked at. I remember that as I wrote that column, during my lunch hours at my work desk, I could feel the presence of my beloved father. It was as if Dad was by my side, whispering to me, “don’t give up.”
The memory of hiking the Appalachian Trail with a full pack, often reminded me that I can get through tough times and succeed.
From not giving up on earning a merit badge to hiking the Appalachian Trail with a full pack, my dad showed myself and hundreds of other boys that they can do things that they just plain thought they couldn’t do. My dad taught myself and hundreds of other boys; to be tough, to hold firm to a goal, to be true to yourself, to not be worn down by the cruelty of others, and to never forget the incredible power of encouragement.