Cubs in the City
August 1990

“Cubs in the City,” Ensign, Aug. 1990, 44

Cubs in the City

A few weeks after we had moved, it became apparent that it would be impossible for Scott, my eight-year-old son, to get to his weekly Cub Scout meetings at the chapel. We were now living on the other side of town, and there were no Church members with children of Cub Scout age nearby. I was a non-driver and worked all day, so Scott was missing out on the den meetings.

On Sunday our branch president approached me with that familiar look in his eye. “What are we going to do about Scott and his Cub Scout meetings?” And since a less-active member also lived in our apartment complex—“What are we going to do about Tom?”

After this conversation, I “volunteered” to be called as a den mother. That was the easy part. Back at the apartment, I looked over the Scouting supplies I had been given and felt a bit bewildered. Scouting terms were spinning in my head—Akela, Webelos, gold and silver arrows, Bobcats, Wolf, Bear—was I capable of all this? Where would I find the time?

I looked out the window and saw Scott and some of his new friends racing around. I thought about the boys he was with. I knew something about each of them, either from my own observations or from the records in the social services agency where I worked. Many of the families of the boys had been referred to this agency because of child neglect, abuse, or poor parenting. As I mulled this over, I knew I couldn’t just try to do this—I had to do it.

In the semi-quiet of the apartment, I bowed my head and asked for Heavenly Father’s help. I asked him to allow me to touch the lives of some of these boys through Scouting.

I came away from that prayer with my mind firmly made up to succeed. Then I started to work. First, I realized that time was my biggest challenge. I worked from nine to five, Monday through Friday, so the usual after-school den meetings were out. I had obligations every weeknight, and Saturdays were full.

What could I cut out?

I prayed again and realized that eliminating something was not the answer. Rather, I had to add Cub Scouts. So I decided that Wednesday nights would be best. I’d get home from work about 5:15, snatch a bite to eat, and hold Scout meetings from 5:30 to 6:30. This would leave a few moments to snatch another bite and clean up the apartment a bit before leaving for the chapel and my girls at Mutual.

We began slowly at first, with only Scott and Tom present at our first meeting. Then I took a piece of paper and printed a sign for my sliding-glass door:


  • WEDNESDAYS 5:30–6:30


Within five minutes, little boys gathered on my patio to read and discuss the sign. Many little noses were pressed against the window, peering in at me. I opened the sliding door, introduced myself to the boys I didn’t already know, and learned their names. I handed out a previously prepared sheet explaining Cub Scouts and den meetings, and inviting parents to the monthly pack meetings at the chapel.

The next Wednesday we really began. From then on we cut and pasted, drew and painted, planned, performed, and prayed. This was a first time for bowing heads for many of them, but after a few weeks I had boys ask to give the opening prayer.

Since the apartments had large, frequent turnover, the little faces changed constantly, but my apartment was always filled to overflowing every Wednesday. I scouted around for hand-me-down uniforms. We were an odd assortment—some had shirts, some had pants, and some only had a neckerchief, but we shared a rare closeness.

In the spring we had a cleanup day, and the boys did a fine job cleaning and clearing the apartment area of refuse and junk. In order to make them prouder of their humble surroundings, we had a flower-seed planting session. The only problem was that we just had to let some of the little neighborhood girls participate—they were sooooo pleading.

One time we had a wrestling/exercise/tug-of-war program out of doors, and before long we had thirty to forty children participating. We were happy, active, and noisy.

Before long, I had mothers stop me to discuss their boys with an interest and pride I hadn’t previously seen. Social workers where I worked knew some of these friends and mentioned how much the Cub program meant to the parents. Older sisters and brothers began getting acquainted with me, and before long we had a car full of teens attending our Mutual meetings.

Oh, it wasn’t all success. I never did get the parents to participate in the pack meetings—not even the Blue and Gold Banquet. Transportation was always a problem; the Cubmaster and branch president had to drive across town to haul us to the pack meetings.

Often I came back to a cluttered apartment, having left it messy after Cubs to get to Mutual on time. Many times I chatted outside with little boys or parents when I should have been ironing. Then, as the younger brothers and sisters got to know me, I spent my dusting and cleaning time reading to them. My closets were again cluttered as I saved things I “might need” for Cubs. Sometimes I was just plain tired.

But I was never sorry for my involvement in Cub Scouts during the year and a half we lived in the apartments. We all became better people for our experiences. Both Scott and Cindy, my sixteen-year-old, became aware of children far worse off than they. They learned to be grateful for what they had and learned what sharing really meant. While Cindy had sometimes previously complained that she “had nothing to wear,” she became able to find clothing to share with some of the girls. She was also recognized as something of a soft touch for a lollipop among the younger set who knocked on our door.

My Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 are now free again, but I often find myself remembering those little boys. I wonder where and how they are. I remember their vibrant, intent faces, their eagerness to try new things, their little bowed heads as we stood in a circle for opening prayer. I remember how one boy, needing special attention, hid in a closet, hoping to speak to me alone after the others had gone. I think about the serious talk I had with another who had started to smoke. I am glad our lives touched each other.

And sometimes, when I sit reflecting, I pray that when the day comes for each of these boys to hear the gospel, they’ll remember the apartments, Cub Scouting, the prayers, the LDS chapel, and the kindness of its people. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll even remember me.

  • Marlene B. Brown teaches early morning seminary and writes the newsletter in the Toms River Ward, East Brunswick New Jersey Stake.

Illustrated by Paul Mann