The Boys and the Mountain
This story was told by our son's grandfather, to his father, and again to our son during the presentation of the Arrow of Light award. It has never failed to lose its symbolism, meaning, and awe for a group of cubs.
Telling this story just before awarding each boy their very own Honor Arrow really helps each scout feel the importance of the award they are receiving. Now until December 20, 2019, you can get an $18 dollar discount - essentially a free Honor Arrow - when you order two or more items. Use code FREE1 to save on your Pack's AOL awards this year.
There were once four young boys of the Webelos tribe, children much like you. And these boys sought a challenge - a way to prove themselves as strong and capable. But in their youth, they knew not how to do this. So, as was the way of their people, they sought the wisdom of the elders and leaders in their tribe. They sought out the guidance of their mighty and wise Chief, Akela.
Early one morning, before the sun had risen, the four boys went to mighty Akela in his lodge. And there, before the embers of the fire, they spoke their hearts to him.
“Mighty Akela,” they said, “We seek your guidance. We seek a way to prove ourselves, to our friends, to our family - and to each other! We are too young to be warriors. But we aren’t little kids any more.
“Please, great Akela,” they beseeched him, “Give us a challenge! A way to prove ourselves as men.”
With that, great and wise Akela thought for many moments, and finished the last bites of his breakfast. Then, breathing deeply, he rose and said in a deep voice, “All right. COME WITH ME.”
And there he stood with purpose and led the four boys outside of his lodge. And there he strode with purpose, through the heart of the camp, where all could see - as the boys followed him. Arriving at the edge of the camp, he pointed to a mountain rising high in the distance, across a vast desert plain. Then, his finger still outstretched, he turned and spoke with purpose, in a loud voice so that all might hear.
“This day!” Akela spoke, “These four boys will cross that desert plain. They will climb that mountain. And they will bring back to ME... what they find there.”
Though the journey seemed daunting, great Akela’s words brooked no argument. Eagerly gathering enough food and water for the day’s journey, the four boys set out on the trail towards the mountain.
The day began, and the people of the camp went about their chores. Great Akela began his duties as a Chief; conferring with his people, planning for the next hunt, and assisting with work to be done. But in the back of his mind, he thought of the four boys.
Many hours passed, and soon the first of the young boys returned. And in his hands, he held a piece of sagebrush.
“Well done, young one,” Akela smiled, “You made it about halfway across that desert plain. But like the Wolf, your journey will take you further in time. Now come, sit by the fire, and tell us of your journey.”
More hours passed, and soon the second young boy returned. And in his hands, he held a piece of cactus. “Very good!” Akela said, “You made it all the way to the other side of the desert plain, right at the foot of the mountain! But like the Bear, your journey will take you further in time. Now come, sit by the fire, rest, and tell us of your journey.”
Then, more hours passed, and more hours passed; and soon the third young boy did return. And in his hands, he carried a branch of cedar. Akela smiled and patted him on the shoulder, “Well done! WELL done! You made it about halfway up that mountain. Surely in one more year, you will reach the top. Now come, sit at my fire, rest, eat, and tell us of your journey.”
More hours then passed, and more hours. But the fourth boy... had not returned. It was growing late in the day, and the sun going to sleep beneath the earth. Akela found himself growing worried, pacing back and forth in front of his lodge, terrible thoughts racing through his mind. Where was the boy? He should have returned by now.
Akela’s thoughts grew as dark as the sky. Was this challenge too difficult? True, the boy had the training and knowledge of his people - all they had prepared him for. But was this enough? What if he had slipped and fell, breaking his leg? What if he was stuck up on that mountain? What if a wild animal had gotten ahold of him? All these possibilities went through Akela’s mind as more hours passed.
The stars were out, and the moon had begun her long swim through the night’s sky. And just as the people of the tribe were organizing a search party to go look for the lost boy - he walked into camp! And before all others, Akela rushed to him and fiercely hugged him with tears in his eyes. “I’m so glad to see you,” the Chief said, “I was worried about you. I’m so glad you’re safe.”
But Akela saw in the moonlight that the fourth boy’s eyes also held tears - tears of sadness - as he extended his empty hands and spoke, “Great Akela. I have failed. I did it - I DID IT - I made it to the top of the mountain! But when I got there... there was nothing. Nothing. Just rock and snow. I found nothing. I have failed...”
“FAILED?” great Akela’s voice boomed across the camp, “You have not FAILED! I could tell, when you entered this camp, by the way you moved, the way you walked, the way you held yourself, the very air about you... I KNEW you had made it to the top. You brought back to me what you found there. And I could see that you were a changed man. Now come, sit, rest at my fire, eat, and tell us all of your great journey.”
And there Akela listened to the boy’s tale. He heard of all the trials and tribulations faced on that long road to the mountaintop. Many times, the boy said, he slipped, fell, scraped his knee - but he got up, brushed off the dirt, and started again. And he heard the boy say that when he finally reached the summit of that peak - he felt like... he was on top of the world.
He could look out behind him, and see all that The Creator had made. And he could look ahead of him and see the next mountain. And the next. And the next, and the next, and the next... all the way to the shining sea. It was the most incredible thing he’d ever seen! He stayed there on the mountain top, to watch the sun set. And the boy told Akela that something amazing happened.
When at last the sun finally disappeared beyond the most distant peak, a single ray of light shot forth towards him, striking him in the chest. It warmed his body and heart with a feeling of pride, of growth, of accomplishment. It pierced his soul, he said. Like an arrow. An arrow... of light.
And he knew... he could do anything. Anything. And that he would never be the same again.