I convinced myself I was too cool to do something as uncool as a Scouting food drive.

When I was 13, I was so cool. My shoes were always untied, and my pants could have fit twice as many legs as I had. The more average I appeared, the more popular I became. It seemed the most impressive thing I could do was nothing. At times I felt like doing something, but I rarely gave in, for I was cool.

In my life, I had a number of activities and abilities that I felt were anti-cool. Some of my “faults” were my ability to play the piano and get good grades. Perhaps my greatest hitch was my involvement in Scouting, seen by some kids at school as less than cool. After all, Scouts advocate doing a good turn daily. If someone asked about Scouting, I would quickly change the subject.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy camping and other activities. I just didn’t want my peers to know that I enjoyed such things. If that knowledge ever spread, I knew that my cool friends would begin drifting away.

As winter arrived, my troop helped with the Scouting for Food drive. The Scouts advertised the food drive and collected the food by going around neighborhoods, usually dressed in their Scout uniforms. I felt I could not possibly participate. Someone might see me, delivering a fatal blow to my popularity. My parents, however, decided I needed to go.

As I walked out the door that day, I made every effort to keep a negative attitude. I eventually concluded that I would simply stay low in the cab of the truck and pass the time looking over my shoulder to make sure we weren’t spotted by anyone of importance.

The other guys passed the time in between houses throwing snowballs, telling jokes, and goofing around. That’s how it started. A little crack in my armor began. Jokes that started out seeming juvenile and annoying began to give me the chuckles, and I returned snowballs with snowballs instead of cold glares. By the end of our route, I was laughing while riding in the truck and racing to pick up the most food. Fortunately, I completely forgot that such simple pleasures were “beneath me.”

When I got dropped off in front of my house, I said good-bye and jaunted cheerfully into the kitchen, completely forgetting about my earlier lack of enthusiasm. My mom asked me how it had been, and I replied, “I had a great time.”

Just after these words slipped out of my mouth, I realized what I had done. How could I have told my mother this, of all things? I quickly tried to cover my mistake, coming back with, “Well, it was okay,” hoping that perhaps she would somehow not remember my initial response.

Looking back on this experience, I gained a few things from it. My search for peer approval was ridiculous. I decided that acting cool all the time really wasn’t cool. It didn’t benefit anyone, and it wasn’t any fun. When I acted disinterested, life was unexciting. Enjoyment, as it turned out, was independent of popularity. Who would have thought that? I gave this theory a test during the next week of school by making an effort to enjoy life rather than ignore it. This test was a great success. I had fun.

My Scouting experience taught me that I controlled whether or not I enjoyed myself in any situation—or in life. Attitude really is everything.

[illustration] Illustrated by Greg Newbold

Elder John Lattin is serving full time in the Mexico Chihuahua Mission.