As I approach Thanksgiving this year in the context of being a member of a ministry that seeks to raise up Christ-centered leaders, I think of a man who poured character and principles of leadership into my own life.
Bob Rhodes was my scoutmaster in the little town where I grew up. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, standing in front of the small group of us rowdy twelve- and thirteen-year olds. I can still picture him speaking of the importance of being men of excellence, doing acts of kindness, and putting others before ourselves. Every Monday night he would meet us in the basement of the Lutheran church and help us work on how to be better citizens. He would teach us how to address our elders or someone on the phone. Every year he took us to camp and spent a week hiking in the woods. During this week he would do things like point out poisonous plants and showing us how to apply a tourniquet should the need ever arise.
But There Was a Problem
But there was a problem. I didn’t want to learn. I wanted to play. I was a troublemaker. I would be whispering the latest joke I heard when Mr. Rhodes was talking to us. I thought it was cute to pull the chair out from behind a buddy who was about to sit down. I thought it was cool to pull out my Scout knife and try to pitch it into the wall to see if it would stick.
Finally, the day came when Mr. Rhodes pulled me aside. He sat me in a chair in front of his own and told me, eyeball to eyeball, that I was one of his favorite young men. He said that out of all the boys in the troop, I had the greatest potential. He said I could really help some of the younger guys if I wanted to. But then he put his hand gently on my shoulder and said he was going to have to ask me to leave the Scouts. He said that in this troop there was only room enough for people who were team players and that I was not one of those. He didn’t say another word after that. He simply got up, walked back into the other room filled with a crowd of waiting scouts, and resumed his teaching.
A Turning Point
To this day, I remember that encounter as a turning point in my life. I went to Mr. Rhodes after the meeting and asked if he would give me another chance. He did. And by God’s grace it changed the outlook and trajectory of my life.
I will be forever grateful for a man who was willing to invest some of his life in an ignorant and rebellious young teen in order to make him a better person and to cultivate in him elements of leadership.