For most of my teenage years I was a boy scout in the 45th Unit based in Mount Argus, Dublin. It’s only in recent years that I’ve come to appreciate what a gift it was to me – and to my brother who was also in the scouts – to be able to learn the life-skills that we acquired in the scouts and to have the adventures that we had back then. I have very vivid and precise memories of our troop leader who was a force of nature, a very skilled scout, a very good person, a great leader and – above all – a great entertainer. No matter how long the road was, no matter how wet we got as we trudged through the Wicklow mountains every second or third Sunday, he always had a quip, a quick word to cheer us up and to drive us on.
Reading today’s gospel, I am immediately brought back to a moment late one autumn Sunday afternoon maybe 35 or 40 years ago. We’re on the final leg one of our regular hikes over Djouce Mountain – or it might have been the Great Sugar Loaf. I’m flagging badly and our Scout Leader trails back to the end of our group to find me feeling sorry for myself. It had been a long day; it had rained for most of it and it was getting dark. We still had at least three miles to go to meet our bus home and I was miserable. “What’s up with you, Cuddihy?” the effervescent scout leader hollered. “I’m frozen; I’m frozen”, I replied. “Hardly,” said he…. “We’re all cold, but only a few are frozen!”
This is only one of dozens of memories I have of this man and the scouts. He was gifted and made everyone feel welcome. When we went on one of the weekend camping trips that we enjoyed every few months, the highlight was always the campfire and the sing-song on Saturday night. His routine never changed. After we had all eaten and washed up and once the fire was lit, he would gather the group whose turn it was to set the fire and tell us to go around to all the tents to tell everyone that we were having a party, “And” he would d say, raising his two arms triumphantly in the air, “tell them everyone is invited!” How special that invitation was!