Lord John Russell, who served as the United Kingdom’s prime minister in the mid-1860s, called a proverb “the wisdom of many and the wit of one.”
So many of the proverbial sayings that express a perceived truth and have become an indelible part of our lexicon can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophers, Confucius other ancient Chinese sages, and the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, who was widely considered to have been one of the greatest scholars of the Northern Renaissance.
Perhaps some of the most notable of those words of wisdom can be found in King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament and the Apostle Paul’s epistles in the New Testament. In fact, it is one of St. Paul’s proverbs, found in his epistle to the Galatians, that is among the best known: “Whatever a man soweth, so shall he reap.”
That proverb rang true with me when I recently heard a story about two local residents: Christine Tutak, who serves as the director of the Burbank Parent Education Program at the Burbank Adult School, and Burbank High School junior Spencer Solberg.
In a living testament to the proverb that tells us that what we sow for the lives of others we harvest and reap for ourselves, Spencer and Tutak first met when he was just a toddler attending Mommy and Me classes provided by the Parent Education Program and she was his first teacher
“Our program is a community,” said Tutak. “Those who have been involved with it never forget what they learned here, and we have had many who have come back and been of help to us. But it is really special that a teenage boy would embrace us and think of our needs.”
The reason Spencer thought of the needs of children currently enrolled in the program is related to his pursuing the rank of Eagle Scout. Closing in on what he needs to reach that achievement, Spencer contacted Tutak and asked if there was anything he could do for her because she had done so much for him. Following that conversation, Spencer decided to create a series of six childhood development boards, or “busy boards” as they are better known.
“Spencer was in our program since he was just a few months old,” said Tutak, who has been involved with the 70-year-old education program for 20 years. “It was lovely that he thought of us for his Eagle Scout project. He came up with the idea, and we were thrilled.”
According to Spencer’s mother, Caroline, the project, which requires a Scout to work with a group to show leadership and instruction, should have taken about three days to construct.
“Instead, because the Scouts were not allowed to meet due to the pandemic, Spencer had to lay out the boards, take a picture, drop it off at one Scout’s house so that they could attach a few parts, then pick it up and repeat that process,” said Caroline. “So instead of three days, it turned into a three-month project.”
Spencer, who has been involved with scouting since he was very young, is a member of Troop 209, which was chartered by the First United Methodist Church of Burbank and affiliated with the Iron Eyes Cody District of the Verdugo Hills Council Boy Scouts.
“I wanted to do something that would be helpful to the Burbank Parent Education Program – something that would last,” said Spencer. “I still have friends from that program today and I know, as they have gotten older, they have done some volunteer work for the program.”
Aware of his fellow alumni’s service — building benches and helping around the outside area — Spencer said that by doing this project he feels he is giving back to those who have done so much for him.
“I had done a project for them before, to earn my craftsman activity badge,” Spencer revealed. “That worked out well, so I felt I wanted to take it a bit further.”
Still having a few more requirements left before earning the rank of Eagle Scout, Spencer, who described himself as having been a quiet child who enjoyed reading, said he was encouraged to join the Scouts by his mother.
“When I got involved with scouting I made new friends and was very fortunate to be around supportive people who showed me kindness and helped me in various aspects of life,” said Spencer. “I learned about taking personal responsibility and how to work with others.”
Working his way into leadership positions with his troop, Spencer said that advancement meant a lot to him because he was able to pass on things he had learned to others.
“I became a senior patrol leader, where I learned how to take and give direction. I took on a leadership role for the cooking we did on camping trips and learned a lot about having the right attitude,” said Spencer. “Just like the Mommy and Me program, scouting is also a community that helped and supported me. The things I have learned through those programs — what they gave me, along with my personal drive — will really help me get further in life so I can help others and achieve my goals.”
Those goals include his desire to pursue a career in physics and, possibly, even follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who worked for NASA.
While that is still a few years off, the thought of becoming an Eagle Scout is the thing that is currently on Spencer’s mind, and, while things are going more slowly than he hoped because of the pandemic, he plans to have achieved that status by summer.
“It will be nice to be recognized for the work I put in, but there is something that will really mean a lot more to me: the personal accomplishment,” said Spencer. “By accomplishing this goal with the help of others, I will know I have the ability and responsibility I will need to go out into the world, to college and work, and be able to deal with whatever life throws at me while helping others.”
David Laurell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.