To the Scouts, families, and friends of Troop 2,
In the absence of our annual May Family Camp, I, Michael Vigman, wanted to draft a letter that could provide perspective for the continuing Scouts, food-for-thought to the parents (new and old), and closure to the graduating seniors. Essentially, this letter will be in lieu of a chapel message, but I sincerely hope it might evoke the same feelings of introspection, amusement, camaraderie, and community.

Additionally, I've attached a PDF in case that's easier to read.

Before I get into things, I want to give a brief update on the Eagle Scout and close friend of mine who gave a deeply moving chapel message last year, Andrew Liu. On August 25th, 2019, just 3 months after Family Camp and his senior graduation, Andrew encountered an injured woman, face-down on the Pingding Guzhen trail in Taiwan. Without hesitation, he checked for dangers to himself and began to scramble down the 20-foot gulley of which she had fallen to assist her. Just like he’d trained in First Aid merit badge classes and Bloody Monday, he assessed the woman’s injuries and inferred she had, at the very least, likely fractured or broken a rib and suffered a head injury. He stabilized her spine, applied a bandage to her head wound, and waited with her for over two hours for EMS to arrive and lift her out. He’d later recount to me, “in the moment I was totally calm, but the shock hit after it was over—Bloody Monday is real.” 
In my 7 years with Troop 2, it’s Andrew’s anecdote from less than a year ago that I think about most often when I reflect on the significance of “why we do what we do.” Trapped in quarantine, it can be easy for many of us to lose sight of the meaning behind certain events, routines, and lifestyles that have been cancelled, broken, and changed, respectively. However, rather than dwell on what won’t happen at face-value, it is far more empowering to take the time to consider the past, present, and future experiences that help to shape us as citizens, Scouts, and leaders. In short, it’s all about perspective... 
For me, I love the high adventure trips more than anything in T2. These expeditions feel like you pack weeks’ worth of living into just a few days— a thrilling, if tiring, whirlwind. So when I describe backpacking to unfamiliar friends and family, I jokingly begin that it's the most inconvenient activity in existence. Why keep what you need to live in one place when you can carry it all on your back every day? No matter though, for me it’s one of the most gratifying experiences in my life. Last summer, as part of Team E on Mt. Rainier’s Northern Loop Trail in Oregon, we were on the homestretch. We’d enjoyed 5 days of beautiful sunshine, clear skies, and greenery as far as the eye could see. We were ready for a smooth-sailing sixth and final day. We even woke up at 6 A.M. for this final push...yeah a bunch of teenagers woke up at 6 A.M. of their own accord (virtually unheard of!). The trip’s mileage was relatively low compared to some of our prior trips, but the elevation variability was appreciable (and difficult). Seven miles total up and down a short mountain and we were done. Or that’s what we thought.   
One hour later, our already weakly marked trails had turned into muddy streams. Our midweight rain gear suffered in the worsening downpour and our rocky, snowy, icy incline had only just begun. For the next four hours, despite poor visibility, numbed extremities, and the prevalent risk of hypothermia, the adverse conditions did nothing to interrupt how we worked as a team to navigate the terrain and discuss where the next cairn (stack of rocks marking the trail) or fork should or would be. Everyone forged onwards with remarkable spirit. Maybe because we knew it would make a great story. Or maybe because we knew there wasn’t another option.
            I noted this feeling, the esprit de corps, in my journal when we returned to civilization. I wrote, “everyone unconsciously transcended their known physical prowess and mental fortitude as individuals and instead put the outcome of the team first…I cannot begin to comprehend and appreciate the years of friendship and trust that is required for that to happen— I am awestruck by that kind of energy.”
            Think about a time when you’ve felt a part of something greater than yourself. From the workplace to the sports fields to the campfires of T2, we cannot forget that feeling. It’s this essence that I want everyone to consider during our quarantined time. I reached out to some of the T2 Eagles/alumni asking them what about their time in T2 helped them in university/adult life. The overall response was that it taught them to persevere. Donovan Sanders, an Eagle and UCSD (’23) student, replied saying, “In college this applies to changing environments and taking hard classes…I think it’s especially important now, realizing that the situation we’re in now is difficult but is doable.”
And I believe it starts in the little things, inside and outside T2. For this essay, I’ll just speak to what I feel we gain in T2. As Scouts, whether we’re an SPL, Staff member, patrol leader, or patrol member, we gain experiences that expand upon our abilities to face physical or mental adversity with determination and to work cooperatively without reservation. From the Monday night meeting activities to the canoe regattas and beyond, our commitment is shown in our effort to do our best as both facilitators and participants. How many times have we gone through the controlled chaos that Family Camp canoe races entail? I’ve seen parents and Scouts (including myself) at times begrudgingly hop into the Camp French lake because someone needed us to. I sure know I didn’t embrace the task of wading out into the lake at 8 A.M. to set up the buoy line, but it got done because it needed to.
In all that we do, I hope we can all take in each of our best and worst moments for what they are and to appreciate their qualities that may not jump out to us at the time. I hope the younger Scouts can begin to learn why that’s important. For the situation we’re in, I’d give a lot to be back on that snowy hillside with my friends getting rained on or to be among the rows of Douglas firs at the tree lot (which wasn’t possible this year). Hindsight and perspective, right? But I know that for any melancholy in the air regarding graduations and proms being cancelled, there is still happiness to be had during and succeeding this global crisis.
Though we may be geographically apart, we are in this metaphorical storm together as families, friends, neighbors, etc. Even when some of my peers asked me what I thought of the government’s countermeasures to COVID-19 (quarantine, lockdown, social distancing, masks, etc.) because they know I’m interested in medicine (and because they are itching to return to normalcy), I could only think of one word: necessary.
It is necessary that we do the absolute best to “help others at all times” because even if the ones we help are not our loved ones, they are someone else’s. It is necessary that we maintain the bonds built in our communities, both T2’s and each of the communities we are a part of. It is necessary that we do not allow the differences in our morals or beliefs, especially when those differences are broadcasted on the news daily, to become the instruments of division that halt the wheels of progress during this pandemic and in future endeavors. We didn’t have a choice to be in the midst of this pandemic, but we certainly have the choice to work together and help hasten its end.
Stay healthy, stay happy, and let’s get through this together. Thank you.
Michael Vigman
 P.S. One last important note I wanted to include:
In the absence of a final campfire for the seniors to be recognized, I wanted to include what each of their plans for next year are.
Wren Eaton – Majoring in psychology at Bard University
Trent Schroer – Deferring acceptance to Boulder University for one year, will study at SMC.
Nicholas Vaillincourt – Majoring in computer engineering at UC Santa Cruz
Michael Vigman – Majoring in biology at UCLA
Bryan Yang – Majoring in environmental science at UC Berkeley
Michael Yang – Double majoring in neuroscience and public health at Tulane University
To all the Staff I’ve served alongside, and it truly has been wonderful, “wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”

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