In my early teens, I was an active member of the Boy Scout Troop 162 in Waldo. We were a rather small troop, but we had a great time going on camping trips and doing projects using the basics you learn in Scouts.
It was thrilling to be a member of such a great organization that subscribed to the Scout Law: a Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. I learned the Scout Oath by heart: On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. This philosophy lined up with my parent’s beliefs and what they wanted to instill in this small town boy.
I was excited about earning my Scout badges. Each one was an accomplishment. But my bigger goals were to become a Patrol Leader, which in turn would help me become an Eagle Scout when I got older. I could earn a needed badge by leading a group of Scouts on an expedition. So I introduced the idea of an all-day bicycle ride from Waldo to Gainesville and back to my Scout Troop. Some the Scouts were enthusiastic about it, so I asked my parents if they would let me lead such a ride.
Back in those days, Waldo Road (State Road 24) was just two-lanes with no bike lane. My mother expressed concern about my safety as well as the safety of my fellow Scout buddies. I assured her that I’d be very careful to ride my bike off of the road when I saw a vehicle approaching and promised that I would make sure the other Scouts did the same. My Dad looked me directly in the eye and said, “It’s OK to go, but don’t be calling back home for us to come pick you up. You’re gonna have to be totally responsible for yourself. That’s what Boy Scouts do.” I assured my parents that I would take full responsibility for the trip and that I definitely would not call them for assistance. “There is no need to worry,” I said proudly, “I’ll take full responsibility; I AM a Boy Scout!”
A few weeks later, I met up with the others of our Troop who were going on the expedition at the Waldo Scout Hut. After a safety briefing, we set out on the 15-mile bike ride to Gainesville. As was planned, when we saw oncoming traffic, we rode our bikes off of the paved road until the cars and trucks passed, then we’d pedal back onto the pavement, which was, obviously, a much easier surface for peddling!
Soon we were in Gainesville and began touring around town. After awhile, we became bored, and we decided we’d split up into two teams and play chase. We were having a grand ole time when all of a sudden, as I was speeding along on my bike and not closely watching where I was going, the front tire on my bike found its way into a pothole adjacent to the railroad tracks. Going over the handlebars was the last thing I remember.
When I regained consciousness, I found myself sitting outside the door of a nearby auto repair shop on 6th Street where my accident occurred. I had a large goose egg on my head, a cut on my forehead and a pretty substantial cut on my left knee.
As I was coming to, the garage men, who had seen the accident and had come to my rescue, began asking me questions to see if I was coherent. When they asked me if I’d like to go to the hospital to get checked out, my immediate response was “No, please no! I’m fine! I can make it home.” What was quickly coming to my mind was the assurance I had given my parents that I would take responsibility for my own well-being. There was no way I was going back on that promise!
As I collected myself and got up to walk, I found it difficult to use my left leg. The pain was so excruciating that I couldn’t use my left leg to pedal. Exacerbating the problem was that the torn left leg of my jeans was constantly rubbing over the wound on my left knee. Even though the left leg of my jeans was torn, I dared not cut off the pant leg as that would get me into deep trouble with my parents. Torn pants could be mended; cutoff jeans could not! So I rolled up the pant leg over my knee, and I pedaled with one leg the entire 15 miles back to Waldo.
As we pedaled along, we continued to practice the safe riding habit of getting off of the highway when we saw approaching traffic. Having the use of only one leg to pedal made it quite a challenge to get on and off the pavement. It was exhausting, and I vividly remember dreading the maneuver every time I saw a car coming.
Even though it ran through my mind to stop and call my parents to come and rescue me, I knew deep down that I just had to do keep my promise and take care of myself. My pride and integrity were at stake! I had boldly said, “I’ll take full responsibility for myself and my well-being.” So, I sucked it up and pedaled onward.
As I limped into the house, with my torn jeans and a lump on my head, my Dad said, “It looks like things went a little rough today.” I said, “Yes, sir, they did.” My Mom gave me a concerned, yet loving look as she cleaned my wounds and mended my jeans. They were concerned, but I felt something different: accomplishment. I made it all the way home on one leg. And I had kept my word.
This outing taught me an important lesson in Waldo Wisdom. There are going to be unexpected potholes that come in the pathway of our life. The test is, how do we choose to handle those potholes? We can choose to be a victim, or we can choose to consider those experiences as lessons. Once we take personal responsibility for playing the cards that were dealt us, we can move forward to solve or resolve the issue at hand. If we establish in our minds that we can and will accomplish the task at hand, that declaration gives us the power to do just that! As we overcome hardships, we gain tremendous confidence that will help with the next challenge. Embrace every opportunity (potholes and all) that comes your way. As Thomas Carlyle said, “Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”