Ever since I was a Scout in the 1970s I have wanted to be a member of the Order of the Arrow (OA). The national honor society for the BSA is selective: candidates are elected by their troops from among Scouts who have reached the First Class rank, and once selected are then tested in a weekend-long process called an Ordeal.
I never made it into the OA as a Scout, and I never expected to make it as an adult leader. Adult leaders are elected as well, but their candidacy is not automatic: adult candidates are then reviewed at the Council level for suitability and for demonstrated commitment to Scouting ideals.
Quite unexpectedly in 2018 my name was submitted by my troop, and I was called out at a special ceremony at the April Camporee. I couldn’t even be there – I was in China on business. But I accepted (naturally) and presented myself on a Friday night five weeks later for Ordeal high in the Southern California mountains.
The specifics of Ordeal are a closely-held secret, known only to members of the Order. Suffice to say that while it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in four years as a Scout and nine years as an adult leader, it was also transformative in obvious and subtle ways that continue to manifest themselves years later. The introspection, the commitment, and the profound dedication to all that is good about Scouting all combine to work a special magic that leaves one profoundly renewed and without the need for mind-altering substances.
I would not be an Arrowman without the patience and help of others, especially my mentor Dan Estabrook, my wife Sunny, and my son Aaron. Becoming a part of the OA was one of my life’s great experiences, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.