At the beginning of our trip, en route to Paris, Dave Thompson loaned me the book, The Longest Day, Cornelius Ryan's famous account of the D-Day invasion of WWII. In the buildup to D-Day, the author described in detail the great amassing of soldiers from all over the world in Great Britain, preparing for the invasion. The book described it as "the youth of the free world gathering to save the world." I was fascinated with the depiction of the camps and accounts of camaraderie among the thousands of people, mixing from numerous countries, in preparation for that terrible battle.
That same depiction overwhelmed me when our scouts first made their way to the entrance of the World Scout Jamboree. 40,000 scouts from 250 countries were amassed in one place, and we were right in the middle of it. But in contrast to the great gathering in the buildup to D-Day, we were entering a much different occasion, the largest display of good will among nations I have ever personally seen. It was as though Disney's "It's a Small World" ride exploded all over a field in Sweden.
When we arrived, we were instructed to proceed to a central tower where we would take a tour of the jamboree. We never got there. Instead we were met by so many scouts from so many places; anxious to shake our hands, introduce themselves, take pictures, trade patches and such. We spent over an hour in the entryway...a jubilant atmosphere the likes of which I can't effectively describe.
The rest of the first Jambo day was a whirlwind of international relations as our scouts made friends from places they can scarcely locate on a map. By the end of the day, we found ourselves on a sailing ship as the guests of a Polish Sea Scout Troop we had met earlier in the day. They invited us to share a small meal onboard their ship before they sailed off into the Baltic.
I won't attempt to share all the stories and encounters we had at the Jamboree. Suffice it to say, I truly believe we were all changed in some way. We saw the very best of scouting. More importantly, we saw what the world can be on its best day.
Sun, July 31, 2011
by Brent Wheelbarger