My scouts, like most young boys, were very competitive and always looking for an edge on everything. That seemed especially true when it came to food. They always wanted the biggest cookie, the best looking cupcake, or the largest steak.
I had only been a scoutmaster for a short time when I first saw this. The boys had earned a few merit badges, and we were having a court of honor. I asked the parents to rotate on who brought treats. It was Mort’s mother’s turn, and she was a good cook. Even before the court of honor had started, the boys were eyeing the beautiful cupcakes, each boy deciding which one they wanted. There was only one apiece, and I knew what would happen when the court of honor was over. The boys would make a mad dash for the dessert table in hopes of getting the one of they desired. But Gordy had an idea on how to get a jump on the rush.
As the boys were gathered around the table, Gordy separated out the cupcake he wanted, the biggest with the most icing and sprinkles. He made sure he had the attention of all of the other boys. Once he knew they were watching, he said, “This is the one I want.” As he said it, he stuck his finger in the middle of it.
“That’s not fair,” Mort said.
“Why?” Gordy replied, grinning. “Someone else could choose it if they want to.”
“Not after you stuck your filthy finger in it,” Mort said.
I could see that the others agreed with Mort and felt it was unfair. So I thought I should do something. But what? Suddenly I had an idea. I don’t know if it was a good idea, but I felt it might teach the boys something about fairness and not being greedy.
“Okay guys,” I said sticking my finger into the cupcake Gordy had claimed. “I think we should go ahead and let Gordy have this one.”
“Hey!” Gordy said as I licked the icing off of my finger.
But then, about half of the boys followed suit, announcing the cupcake as Gordy’s and sticking their fingers in it. The rest would have, but Gordy protected what was left of the cupcake. Most of the icing was gone, licked off of many fingers, and the cake itself was just crumbs.
I thought that Gordy had learned his lesson, but it was only the next month on our campout when I learned he hadn’t. However, the rest of the boys had. We had almost one steak per person. I say almost because there were sixteen boys, two leaders, and seventeen steaks. But one steak was the size of two of the others, so we had planned to cut it in half.
We had just finished cooking all of the steaks, but before I had a chance to cut the big one in half, Gordy stopped me. Then, just like with the cupcake, he made sure everyone was looking. When he was sure they were, he spit on the big steak. He grinned and said, “If no one wants that steak I’d be happy to eat it.”
I could feel the annoyance welling up in me. But then, before I could say anything, Mort walked up and spit on the steak and said, “Yeah, Gordy, it’s all yours.”
The boys who were closest did the same thing Mort had done, each declaring the steak as Gordy’s. Gordy was faster in protecting the steak than he had been with the cupcake, and only five of the boys were able to help him mark it as his own. But in trying to protect the steak, he knocked it off of the table into the dirt.
Gordy wanted to choose another steak, but I told him that I wouldn’t have one already, and there was only one apiece for everyone else. He took the big steak and washed it off. We reheated it to burn off the contamination, but he still claimed it had grit in it.
“Maybe that’s what greed tastes like,” I said.