Helpful – A Scout is concerned about other people. He willingly volunteers to help others without expecting payment or reward.
Since Christmas, Tad had probably logged about a million miles on his new remote control truck. It was the best Christmas present he had ever gotten. He was out in the front yard jumping the ramp when the truck hit at a funky angle, and landed right smack in the middle of the neighbor’s flowerbed.
All Tad knew about Mrs. Sackwith could be printed in two words: Grouch Eeee! Tad and AJ called her “Suckface Sackwith” behind her back because they never, ever saw her smile. When Tad’s den met at their house a few weeks ago, she must have called a dozen times to complain about the noise.
“You there, young man! Look at what you’ve done!” Mrs. Sackwith called from the front porch of her house, advancing on them.
“Just wait until I tell your mother.” Those words were designed to strike fear in the hearts of truck drivers everywhere. This spelled curtains for Tad.
“Get away my flowers!” she yelled, and stomped back inside.
Later that afternoon, Dad called Tad into his office, already a bad sign. He started his first sentence with the big “D” word. “Son, I was very DISAPPOINTED to get a phone call from Mrs. Sackwith. She was very angry about her flowers. I’m going to have to take the truck away for a while.”
“Aw, Dad, it was an accident. My truck hit the ramp wrong. It won’t . . . “ He didn’t bother to finish the sentence, knowing it wouldn’t do any good. Tad was sent to his room right after dinner. He fell asleep dreaming of ways to get revenge, featuring a life-sized truck driving over Mrs. Sackwith’s car, with flames shooting out of his tailpipe.
Tad woke up to AJ shaking him. “We’re being attacked by aliens!” Delighted, AJ was standing at the window with the curtains pulled apart. “Look, Tad, it’s an alien landing pod!” The room was cast in a weird red glow, blinking off and on. He could see forms dressed in white, carrying equipment.
“Knock it off, doofus. That’s an ambulance,” Tad said, just as Mom appeared.
“Mom, aliens are kidnapping Mrs. Sackwith, and Tad stopped me from rescuing her,” AJ cried.
“Tad, release your brother this instant,” Mom scolded.
“It’s just an ambulance.”
“An ambulance, are you sure?” Mom asked, as she rushed to the window. “I’d better get over there. You boys get back to bed, you hear me?” She pulled the curtains closed and pointed to the bunk beds.
Since Tad had the top bunk, he could still watch the action next door through the crack at the top of the curtains. AJ whispered, “Is the spaceship lifting off?”
“Shhh. They’re pulling out of the driveway right now.” Just as he answered, the sound of a siren made the walls vibrate. Wicked cool!
The next afternoon, Dad called the boys into the kitchen. “I want you to go next door and feed the dog. Your mom visited Mrs. Sackwith this morning. Looks like she’s going to be laid up for a while,” Dad answered.
“For that snarky old lady? Dad, we can’t flick a booger without her calling over here to complain,” Tad whined.
“Regardless, she’s our neighbor, and it’s the right thing to do. Besides, a Scout is helpful,” Dad said. “So get a move on, because Mr. Ruggles hasn’t been out all day. Make sure you leave him out long enough to do his business, and clean that up, too. Seems like appropriate payment for the destruction of some flowers, don’t you think?“ Dad looked at Tad with one eyebrows raised.
Tad headed next door to feed Mr. Ruggles, a basset hound whose ears drug the ground. He lifted the latch on Mrs. Sackwith’s backyard gate, and stopped in his tracks. As far down the driveway as he could see were trash bags – so many Tad couldn’t squeeze down the driveway.
Tad called out, “You’d better come and see this, Dad.”
Tad and his dad shoved their way into the back yard. “Wowza, son, I see what you mean. You go on and feed the dog while I think about this a minute.” Tad cleared a path to the porch and let the dog out.
“Well, son, we need to help our neighbor. We’ll load her trash can each week, until we get these all rounded up. Whaddya say, you with me?”
“Yeah, I guess. But why wouldn’t she just tell us so we could take care of ‘em a long time ago?” Tad asked.
“I’m sure she was embarrassed. A lot of people don’t like to admit they can’t take care of simple things as they get older,” Dad explained.
The boys began the long process of dragging trash bags to dumpsters. Every week on trash day, the three of them drug trash bags until the driveway was clear. He and AJ took turns feeding and walking Mr. Ruggles.
One day instead of being greeted by Mr. Ruggles, Mrs. Sackwith opened the door, leaning on a cane. “Come in here, young man, I’d like to speak to you,” she said, unsmiling. Tad swallowed hard, wondering what he’d done wrong. “What have you been up to while I was away?” she asked.
“My mom told me to come over to feed the dog. We saw the trash bags in the driveway and thought we should get them out of here so they wouldn’t stink up the neighborhood,” he said. The more nervous Tad got, the faster he talked. “We didn’t toss anything that wasn’t sacked up,” Tad said.
“Stop yammering, young man. I called you in here to ask how much I owe you for the work you’ve done.” Mrs. Sackwith looked like she’d been sucking on a sour pickle.
“We didn’t do it for money. We did it because we’re neighbors, and because a Scout is helpful, ma’am” Tad said in a rush. He was glad he remembered to add “Ma’am” on there, like he did when he was talking to his grandmother. Maybe that would soften her up.
Mrs. S looked like she had shrunk while she was in the hospital. She looked like a strong wind might blow her over. It was hard to be scared of someone who looked so fragile.
“Yeah, I’m a Scout, and we have this Scout law, see, and there are twelve points. One of them is helpful, along with some others,” Tad said. “Anyways, this seemed like a good time to be helpful.”
“I am extremely grateful that you looked after Mr. Ruggles for me. I’m not sure what would have happened to him if you hadn’t. Thank you, young man.” Mrs. Sackwith stuck out her hand to shake, and Tad was careful not to squeeze too hard so he didn’t hurt her.
“Mrs. S, if you want, me and my brother can come over on trash day and carry your bags out. We already have to take our trash out, so it’s a no-brainer,” Tad said.
“I’d be very grateful, young man. It’s difficult for me to lift the bags high enough to reach the dumpster,” Mrs. Sackwith admitted. “Are you sure I can’t pay you?”
“No, ma’am. Like I said, we’re doing ours anyways.”
“Perhaps I can hire you occasionally to mow the grass in my back yard. Does $10 sound fair?” When Mrs. Sackwith smiled a little, she didn’t look nearly so scary.
“I need to talk to my dad first to see if it’s okay to use the mower.” Tad blurted out, “Can I ask you one more thing?”
Mrs. Sackwith immediately looked suspicious. “Well, what is it?”
“Do you think you could call me something besides ‘Young Man’? When my mom says that, I’m usually in trouble. Maybe you could use my name.”
“That sounds reasonable. And I have one for you, as well. How about you and your brother continue to call me Mrs. S? I find it much more pleasant than Suckface.” Mrs. S was smiling, so Tad didn’t even try to dodge that one.
“That’s a deal. We better shake on it to make it official.” Tad said, and stuck out his hand. How could he have ever thought that nice little old lady was scary mean?
At the next den meeting, the delicious smell of pizza filled the air. “Hey, what gives? Is it someone’s birthday or something? I want some!” His den mates were all talking at once, trying to shove their way in.
Mr. Bolton called the group to order. “We’ve been sent a gift from a secret admirer,” he explained.
“What’s that mean?” they all asked.
Mr. Bolton said, “When I arrived, there was a delivery of pizza waiting. The driver had a card with a message that someone wanted to say thanks for teaching Scouts to be helpful. Looks like one of you did something pretty special. So let’s dig in!” Everyone cheered and pizza started flying out of the boxes.
“I wonder who could have sent it. Who do you suppose did something to earn this?” the boys wondered. Everyone was trying to guess who sent it.
Tad helped himself to some pizza and smiled. Yep, he thought to himself, just let them wonder . . .