Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why a Flash Mob?

What is the positive impact on the community of a flash mob? 

I went to a Court of Honor for an Eagle Scout tonight.  I've been to two of them now and they're inspiring.  You take a boy who has been involved in Scouting for nine years, you add up all their efforts and after a great deal of physical and intellectual challenges and a number of service projects, a boy can be awarded the highest honor that the Boy Scouts can give, the rank of Eagle Scout.  The last big push before an Eagle Scout rank is awarded is the Eagle Scout project.  It's akin to a Master's thesis, sometimes the straw that breaks the camel's back, sometimes a soaring accomplishment.

Now that Mike is taking on the leadership of the local Boy Scout troop, he's beginning to work with a some of the boys with their Eagle projects.  One was a riverside cleanup effort.  Another involved trail-building.  Most of the projects seem to include some form of construction and organization of the efforts of volunteers and donations of materials.  That's not a simple task. 
Not all of the boys' interests fall neatly into categories though.  One boy wants to do a photography project.  That one will be interesting and might involve working with the Fall City Historical Society.  Now imagine what that could produce?  A book?  Well, it might be a bit over the top for an Eagle project, but you never know where work like that might take that boy. 

I've helped with just one project so far, one involving trail-building.  I had a good time, worked hard, and was eventually demoted to taking pictures.  I liked working hard, but taking pictures kept me out of physical therapy for the next month, once I felt a familiar zing warning me to slow up. 

"Let the strong young men do the hard physical labor," one scrawny boy said to me, grinning.  I could stand to do some hard physical labor, but I didn't argue too much.  I'm not a good candidate for heavy lifting.  Instead, I took about fifty pictures and burned a disc for this boy so that his work would be well-documented.  I was tempted to take only pictures of the boys working and of the men lounging around, but in the end, I decided that this might not be the best of practical jokes. 

Yes, we can always use good trails.  This one is now wheelchair accessible.  Talk about positive impact on the community.  There will be no quarrels over that issue at his board of review, no questions at all. 

Well, except one, if I'd happen to be invited.  What makes your project unique to you and your interests? Okay, I love good trails.  I like thinking that I'll take a little ownership of the rocks and gravel in that section of trail that I personally helped to haul there.  I could see the pride that this boy took in directing twenty people to accomplish what we did. 

One time, just the fact that I was wearing a Cub Scout T-shirt instigated a young guy to approach Nick and I about Scouting.  At first, he talked about how much he loved Camp Brinkley.  Then, he told us a tragic story about how he'd done some raised boardwalk sections of trail through a swampy area and not four months later, a nasty windstorm took them all out.  I knew which windstorm he was talking about.  Can you imagine?  You spend hours organizing, days even, then you managed to gather a crew of people to help you do a job like this.  You finish the job and are extraordinarily proud of your accomplishment.  The walkways were beautiful.  Then, just days after your Court of Honor, a month shy of your eighteenth birthday, a storm erases all of your work.  Now you know there can be a good bit of heartache in becoming an Eagle Scout as well.  I tried to tell this boy that he'd worked hard and done a good job, that the storm hadn't diminished his effort, just the product.  I could see his anguish.  Maybe he might even try to restore what had been lost if he felt so strongly about it, but I'll never know, will I?  Grocery store conversations are like that. 

But really, what makes this project uniquely yours?  I hate to see people going through the motions.  I know that it might not be appreciated  when it comes down to it, but I'd like to encourage the boys who don't want to go through the motions to come up with a plan that truly suits them and their interests.

One of the boys is really interested in theater.  He doesn't want to build a section of trail.  His will need to be a unique project. 

After hearing about his boy, I had an inspiration.  What about a flash mob?  Mike was not impressed.  To his thinking, building a set for a play or repairing a stage at an old amphitheater would be more appropriate.

"It has to have a positive impact on the community," he said with authority.  I admit that I'm new to this Eagle Scout project thing.  I don't know what will pass muster and what won't.  I don't know how flexible the people on the board of review will be regarding a project on the fringes.  Why do I always have to think of things that are on the fringes?  Well, there are people who need that, this boy, for example.  If he restores a trail, will he be going through the motions?  Will the project become the straw that broke the camel's back?  I've suffered through those kinds of problems, believe me.  It feels good to throw a little of my personal eccentricities at this problem.  I know I wouldn't be able to get through a project this big without it being connected to me in some way.  The boy in the grocery store did the perfect project for him.  I could see his pride in his work.  We need men like him running construction companies, but we also need the kids on the fringes, the ones bursting with that off-beat creativity that throws a twist into the pattern. 

So, I looked it up.  A flash mob that celebrated recycling garnered 876,852 page views.   That's a lot of air time to promote recycling.   An anti-bullying flash mob has had 911,243 views.  The Hallelujah Chorus sung at a Christmas Food Court brought 37,733,402 hits. 

A flash mob in the Copenhagen Metro garnered 2,782,049 views and brought tears to my eyes.  What is the value to the community of that?  I'm just asking.

Thank you for listening, jb

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