From little embers mighty memories light up

By Ivan Morgan
November 17, 2023 Edition

On weeknights during the school year little groups of kids and adults gather in church basements, school gyms and other spots to spend an hour or two hanging out. There are different programs: Scouts, Girl Guides, and the like, but the real point is to come together for fun.

I know, I did it for years.

Last week I found myself in a little room in a church watching as kids and leaders started filing in.

If nostalgia was a drug, I nearly got a lethal dose.

We Morgans were not raised a sentimental lot and nostalgia isn’t part of our makeup. If you ask me, today are the good old days, not foolishness that happened decades ago.

I was asked to a meeting of Embers – seven-and eight-year-old girls and their leaders (older folks will remember they were once called Brownies) – to speak about the volunteer work I do these days with an animal rescue group. I was not prepared for what happened.

I was once a Beaver, Cub, and Scout leader (I have my 15-year pin). Like so much of parenting it was something I did, or, if you’d asked me at the time, just another damn thing I had to do. I used to joke I didn’t mind the meetings, but getting there was brutal. Like everyone else, I had to get off work at 5, pick up everyone, get everyone home, serve dinner and then head back out the door for the seven o’clock meeting.

All four of my kids went through the program, and so I volunteered to help out. But when my youngest said she was done, I celebrated. Done, done, and done! I was out of there.

Never gave it much more of a thought until last week (20 years later) as I sat in that windowless little room watching those kids and their leaders. Suddenly, I was awash in memories. Outside it was cold, dark, and rainy; in here it was warm, bright, and cheery.

At the risk of sounding like a sentimental old fool, I found the whole thing wonderous. How great is it that all these little people come together with these young leaders once a week to laugh, talk, learn things, make stuff, do projects, and play games? And most importantly, become friends.

This is no recruitment piece. In my time the whole thing was often a huge pain in the you-know-what. I used to tell potential volunteers to be prepared to give one night a week, one weekend a season and one week a year. Minimum. Be prepared to deal with pushy, whiny and overprotective parents, self-important “leaders” higher up in the movement and more.

The kids? I never had a problem with the kids, then or now. They are little and full of life and are excited to tell you everything. They don’t know they are in the world.

In that little room last week talking with all those bright young faces about my wife’s charity, and how we save homeless cats and dogs, I forgot all the aggravation of the past. I watched the leaders help the kids make a craft, and wondered if they really know what they have. Back then I didn’t. Maybe they shouldn’t either. Maybe that’s only for old fools like me.

There’s an old African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. I loved briefly being part of that village last week. There’s lots of things wrong in this world, this isn’t one of them.

I must add I managed to appear halfway normal and not freak everyone out with my unexpected fit of emotion. It’s important not to bomb in front of a crowd of eight-year-olds. I remember inviting people to meet with our kids way back when. We had many different folks over the years: doctors, police officers, and firefighters. For some it can be a tough room. Far and away the most popular speaker we ever had? The father of one of the kids was a potato chip distributor.

He was a God to them.

Ivan Morgan can be reached at ivan.morgan@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *