“I have some good news,” announced Pastor Walter Mitty after everyone in the weekly men’s breakfast group had gathered around the big round table in the overflow room of the Main Street Café last Saturday. “My nephew Brian up in Manitowoc is getting his Eagle Scout award next month.”
“Impressive,” Alice commented as she filled cups with coffee.
“Wait, wait. Did you hear that?” said Eric Anderson rolling his eyes. “Alice said something positive!”
“You can blow it out your you know what, Anderson.” Alice set the empty coffee pot on the table and continued. “If more of our so-called men in this country were Eagle Scouts, we wouldn’t be going to hell in a handbasket.”
Ash joined the conversation. “You know, Alice, I have to say that I agree with you. I never made Eagle. Only got to Star, but I still remember the Scout Oath. ‘On my honor I will do by best to do my duty. . . .”
“to God and my Country and to obey the Scout Law;” Dominque joined his friend. “To help other people at all times. . . .”
Pastor Walt was the last one at the table to join in. “To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
“I’m impressed again,” said Alice with her hands on her hips. “I didn’t think you cheap skates had that kind of upbringing.”
Eric Anderson broke the silence that had lasted a minute or so after Alice left to serve other customers and the men around the table tried to grasp what they had just heard from their usually cynical server. “You know, I was in Boy Scouting till I was fifteen,” he said “It was around that age that I began to figure out my sexual identity. Are you guys aware that the Boy Scouts had a ban on openly gay boys until 2014?”
“That’s right,” said Fr. Bob Sullivan poking his head through the overflow room door and taking an empty seat at the table. “I overheard your conversation and it reminded me of the time some Boy Scouts wore rainbow sashes and marched in the Gay Pride Parade. It caused quite a stir.”
“That the thing,” said Eric. “I finally had to leave scouting, because I couldn’t authentically be myself in that organization anymore. But. . . .”
“But what?” asked Dominique.
“But it was hard to leave scouting, because it had given so much to me. I mean, this city boy got to go canoeing in Canada, learned how to swim, and got experience being a leader along with the scoutmaster in my troop who treated me with respect.”
“I know I’m going to sound old fashioned,” added Ash, “but just imagine how discourse in this country would change if people took seriously the values in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.”
“Like what?” asked Fr. Sullivan.
“Like duty and honor,” Eric replied before Ash could respond, “and trustworthy and thrifty and obedient and brave, clean and reverent.”
Everyone turned to Fr. Bob as he began to laugh. “Sounds like my Franciscan order,” he said with a smile. “You know—poverty, chastity, obedience, serving the poor, reverence.”
“And that’s why it was so hard to leave,” said Eric. “Lots of people have a stereotype that we in the gay community are all lascivious and anti-tradition, but the truth is that all most of my gay friends want to do is settle down, own a home, raise a family and contribute to the community.”
“Now it’s my turn to laugh as I listen to you guys,” said Mitty, “because for most of my life people have said that I’m pretty straight laced. They’d use words like square or simple or tight assed to describe me. And in a way, they’re right. In many ways I’ve lived more like my friend Fr. Bob here than a lot of people do.”
“That’s just because they don’t know you, Pastor Walt.” Dominique looked straight in Mitty’s eyes as he continued, “The Robert Taylor Homes where I grew up and Manitowoc where you were raised are cultural light years apart, but the man I’ve come to know over the past ten years didn’t lie to the FBI like Michael Flynn or grope women like Harvey Weinstein or brag about it like our president.”
Moments like these were why these church guys kept coming to the Main Café on Saturday mornings. “You see,” said Eric. “I don’t ever want to be accused of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Although the Boy Scouts didn’t officially lift their ban on openly gay boys until 2014, I will continue to be forever grateful for those ‘old fashioned’ values which they reinforced in me.”
“From my point of view,” Ash concluded, “old fashioned is starting to sound like cutting edge and progressive.”