Scouting

‘Tis the season

tis_the_season_I am sure that I have said this before in the blog, and I know this to have some truth as I have often experienced that there are themes that seem to crop up from time to time in our lives.  This month theme, and I would suggest that it started around the Thanksgiving holiday is being selfless.
It seems that the theme of being selfless or unselfish has been overwhelming since Thanksgiving.  It has cropped up in Scoutmaster minutes I have shared with the Scouts of our troop.  It has reared its head in news stories, we have seen its appeal in “adopt a family” programs at work.  We demonstrated it in our annual Scouting for Food drive, and in my own life I have really been hit with the theme of forgetting about my self so much and focusing on those around me.  I consider myself a giver.
In Scouting, I have dedicated a lot of time, talent, and treasure to the organization, knowing that my dollars and time have a direct impact on Scouts.  I am not sharing this for a pat on the back, rather to plant in your mind the spirit of giving.  A few years back I was asked to give and become a member of the James E. West fellowship.  After some discussion with my wife, we decided that this gift to Scouting would be a lasting legacy gift, money that will stay in Scouting and have direct impacts on Scouts forever.  We annually give through the Friends of Scouting program.  It’s not much in the grand scheme of things.  28% or so of the operating budget comes from FOS, but the impact is direct.
Giving of time and talent are perhaps the most important thing that we do as Scouters and to put a price tag on it would take an advanced math degree and sliding rule.. maybe even the use of an abacus and someone that knows how to calculate it.  That is where the rubber meets the road, where it really counts.
But that spirit of giving does not end when we take off our tan shirts.  Living the Oath and Law in our daily lives suggests that we are givers.  “To help other people at all times”.  This is all about giving.  Being courteous and kind are gifts to others.  I once heard Dennis Prager speak about Happiness as a Moral obligation.  I am going to quote part of his talk on this subject, as there is no way that I could say it better.  Prager said, “When people think of happiness or pursuing happiness, the first thing they think of is, “Well, it’s a pretty selfish desire, I want to be happy for me.   I mean, after all who wants to be unhappy?”  Actually, there is an answer to that, but that’ll be for another time.   But I am here to tell you that in fact happiness is far, far, far more than a selfish desire, it’s actually a moral obligation.  That’s right.   I’m sure most people have never thought of it like this, and I didn’t for most of my life.  I thought that happiness, the pursuit of happiness, was primarily selfish, but it isn’t.  Whether or not you’re happy, and certainly whether or not you act happy is a very, very altruistic endeavor.  In other words, it’s how you touch other lives.  Ask anybody who was raised by an unhappy parent whether or not happiness is a moral issue, and I assure you the answer will be “yes”.   It’s no fun being raised by an unhappy parent,  it is not particularly good to be married to an unhappy person, it is not at all nice for a parent to have an unhappy child, it’s lousy to have a chronically unhappy co-worker.  Yes, our happiness affects others tremendously. That’s why I believe and that’s why I advocate that happiness is a moral obligation.  We are morally obligated to at least act as happy as possible. Even if you don’t feel it. You can ‘t be guided by feelings.  How we act affects others.”
So look back now at the Scout Oath and Law and see how this directs us in our daily lives to be helpful to others.   How do we make happiness a Moral obligation in our lives.  Being Selfless is the answer.
Being Cheerful, Thrifty and Brave certainly impact other people.  Being Trustworthy and loyal directly touch peoples lives.
Ok, so lets get back to this recurring theme.  Why is this so important to me tonight as I sit at the key board and rattle on about it?  Simply put.  We need to think about being better givers.  Take care of our families first, friends, and other people.  Make other people happy through our happiness and our selflessness.
Again, I am not bucking for Sainthood here, but basic compassion for our neighbor dictates that we give.  About a week ago it got real cold here in the Portland metro area.  When the snow hits the ground we go about our daily lives just a little different.  Being a good Scout, I go prepared.  I throw some extra socks and a headlamp in my lunch box along with a few extra snacks to get me through the long UPS days.  It was hovering around 14 degrees as I pulled up to an intersection that a panhandler “works” every day.  I was surprised to see him out there on as cold a day as it was.  But there he was none the less.  Like most people, I am skeptical in giving money to panhandlers, so many of them here in the Portland area at least turn that money into booze or drugs.  And maybe that is the way that they deal with there condition, but I can not justify contributing to that.  The light was red so I pulled to a stop.  He made eye contact with me and I gave him a courteous smile and nod.  I could see he was freezing.  So I turned off the truck and got the socks out of my lunch box.  They were good REI smart wool socks and I knew that this poor guy needed them a heck of a lot more than I this particular morning.  I handed him the socks and encouraged him to try to stay warm.  He smiled and thanked me.  Now I am not going to judge this guy.  And I have heard from local business owners that he is running a major scam out there.  But the fact remained that he was cold and I had extra socks.  No harm, no foul.
With a cheerful spirit it was good to give.
Tonight I rolled the UPS truck up to a house that looked pretty dark for this time in the evening.  No lights were on except to glow of a few candles I could see from the front porch.  The package I had for them was clearly a Christmas gift from someone, perhaps a family member, in South Carolina.  As I got closer to the door, I noted that there were door hangers attached to the door and knob.  The electric company, the gas company and the water had all been turned off.  I could not help but feel for that family sitting by the glow of the candles.
It is easy to judge and say, its their problem for getting into that situation, yes it is.  But what of compassion for those people.  We all have had hard times in our lives.
I knocked on the door and a lady answered.  She looked at me and smiled, I returned her smile and wished her a good evening and a Merry Christmas.  I could see on her face that Christmas was going to be thin this year.  She thanked me and before she closed the door wished me a Merry Christmas.  My heart sank as I walked back to the truck.  It was my last stop of the day.  As I drove home I thanked God for all the blessings that I have.  I thought about my wife and kids at home that have never gone to bed hungry or in a house without heat.  And a voice inside reminded me of my moral obligation to be happy.  You see, I feel that because we have always had a spirit of giving, we have been given so much.  We work hard and try to share in our time, treasure, and talents and as a result we are blessed.  We try daily to live the Scout Oath and Law, and because of that we make those around us better too.
Last night I was honored by being recognized for being elected to the Vigil Honor of the Order of the Arrow.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Order of the Arrow,  I will sum up its purpose by saying that the Order was founded to enhance the spirit of Scouting within its members.  The foundation is Service to others.  Service rendered with a cheerful spirit.  The National Order of the Arrow web site states that, “The Vigil Honor is a high mark of distinction and recognition reserved for those Arrowmen who, by reason of exceptional service, personal effort, and unselfish interest, have made distinguished contributions beyond the immediate responsibilities of their position of office”  further “Alertness to the needs of others is the mark of the Vigil Honor.  It calls for an individual with an unusual awareness of the possibilities within each situation.”  In short, those that make an effort to serve in their daily lives and live the Scout Oath and Law.  This applies to so many people I know, but it is nice that our Lodge has deemed me worthy of such an honor.  But there again, in a short period of time, this theme of selflessness was looking me in the eye.
And now we enter the Christmas season.  Perhaps the season that’s hallmark is giving.  The whole reason for this season is the celebration of the worlds greatest gift.  A gift, that if you believe is renewed over and over.  It is a gift in which our God modeled an expected behavior.  Tonight as I pulled into our neighborhood, I passed the lights decorating houses, Christmas trees glowing from front windows, and the hope that every house has a Merry Christmas filled my heart.  I opened the door and there sat my wife writing Christmas greetings in our cards, that may or may not make it by Christmas.  Our tree, decorated with lights and ornaments collected over the past 22 years, each with meaning and sentiment to our family.  I could not help but pause for a minute and just enjoy what we have.
Being selfless has made us better people, sharing that selflessness is what all of this is about.  Giving each and every day, even if that gift is a smile, a hello, or a pair of socks.  It could be as simple as holding a door open or helping carry a load of groceries.  It can be as big as a James E. West Fellowship or just paying for the coffee of the guy behind you at Starbucks.  The impact you leave with your simple act of kindness, selflessly going through your lives make a difference.
‘Tis the season to be reminded of that.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Values | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Re Launch

launchOCTSkyWell, as promised.. there are going to be changes coming to the blog and the You Tube channel.  Yes, I am going to fully launch the You Tube channel as an extension of the blog.  Sort of like the podcast was.  I am liking the format of video and it is going to allow me to express the spirit of the blog via video.
I am still working out the details, but the videos from the channel will be in the blog as well as subscriptions on You Tube.  Yes, I am going to ask for everyone to subscribe.
Reason for the subscription.  I have been doing some homework on this and looking at what one would consider a good You Tube channel.  Read.. lots of subscriptions and good content.  What happens is that they start bubbling up to the top of the You Tube world.  I am not being narcissistic here.. My goal is to get Scouting and related topics on top.  Just like when we had the podcast, the more downloads and subscriptions one had the closer to the top of the list the podcast got.  In order for us to keep Scouting on top.. we need to promote it.  I have said it many times, I think it is up to us to deliver the promise of Scouting and do it using multiple media.
The Channel.
The format for the channel will not just be me reading the blog.  It will be an outdoor related channel.  Gear, Tips, Trip reports etc.  And thrown in there will be Scoutmaster musings and minutes.  Character, Leadership, and tips on Scoutmastership.
The Blog will be enhanced with this addition and I am excited.
So why has there been a delay and gap in blog entries?
My computer crashed and crashed hard.. blue screen of death kind of crash.  It was toast.  A friend of mine rebuilt it adding a super huge hard drive and some computer things that make it go faster.  I am not a computer guy.. a good user, but do not ask my how it works or whats inside.  Anyway, now that I have everything reloaded and set up.. it’s time to get going again.. and here we go!  No more delays and hopefully no more crashes.
First ask.
If there is anyone that can recommend some cool video editing software.. please let me know.  I am currently using Windows Movie Maker, but know that there is some neat stuff out there.  Rule #1.  It needs to be easy to use.
Drop me an email, or leave a message in the comments section.
Stay tuned.. the Re launch and all the details are coming soon.
Ready for RE LAUNCH.. in 10, 9, 8, 7….

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, comments, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, podcast, Scouting, stories, technology, training, Values, Winter Camping, Wood Badge | Tags: | 1 Comment

Back to the Future… The Outdoor Program

If you build it they will come pt.4, The Annual PlanBoys join Scouts for the Outdoors.. they join for the adventure and fun times that they are promised.  Parents sign them up for Character development, life skills, and the values of the program.  The outdoor program is the heart of Scouting.  It is the place where the Scout learns, practices skills, develops friendships and a love for the wilderness and has fun.
I am sure by now that you have tore through the Aides to Scoutmastership… this has been a fun couple of days pouring through the writing of our founder.  The more I dig in to the book, the more I know that the organization that BP was forming was centered on the boy and that his first and foremost goal was developing them to be good men.  In the early years of the 20th century, England was a different place and boys were not allowed to just be boys.  There are so many problems with suppressing the will and spirit of the boy and BP saw the destruction of  boyhood and the effects that it has on manliness.  I fear that this is happening again and its high time to take get it back.
The outdoor program of the Boy Scouts is how we do just that.

“In spite of teachers and parents, boys remain loyal to their own world.  They obey their own code, although it is quite a different code to the one that is taught to them at home and in the schoolroom. They gladly suffer martyrdom at the hands of uncomprehending adults, rather than be false to their own code.  “The code of the teacher, for instance, is in favor of silence and safety and decorum. The code of the boys is diametrically opposite. It is in favor of noise and risk and excitement. “Fun, fighting, and feeding! These are the  three indispensable elements of the boy’s world. These are basic. They are what boys are in earnest about; and they are not associated with teachers nor schoolbooks. “According to public opinion in Boydom, to sit for four hours a day at a desk indoors is a wretched  waste of time and daylight. Did anyone ever know a boy-a normal healthy boy, who begged his father to buy him a desk? Or did anyone ever know a boy, who was running about outdoors, go and plead with his mother to be allowed to sit down in the drawing room?
“Certainly not. A boy is not a desk animal. He is not a sitting-down animal. Neither is he a pacifist nor a believer in safety first,’ nor a book-worm, nor a philosopher.
Remember that the boy, on joining, wants to begin scouting right away; so don’t dull his keenness by too much preliminary explanation at first. Meet his wants by games and Scouting practices, and instill elementary details bit by bit afterwards as you go. “He is a boy-God bless him-full to the brim of fun and fight and hunger and daring mischief and noise and observation and excitement. If he is not, he is abnormal.”

I have made it pretty clear in writing this blog what my feelings are regarding how I think Scouting should be.  I am a believer that Scouting is done in the outdoors.  I know that there is a place and need for the merit badge program, but feel that it is over emphasized  especially the “Filler badges” like fingerprinting and skating and those types of badges.  Again, I know that there is a place and need… but sometimes I think they, and other non outdoor focused activities distract from the Scouting program.
Having said all of that…
The outdoor program provides adventure and opportunities that allow the Scout to develop skills that make them self reliant.  The Scouts classroom is in the outdoors.  That is were Scouting should happen.  Scouts plan their adventures and carry them out in the outdoors.  In short.. the outdoors is the center of the Scouting program.
The outdoor program is the fix for the boys and to Scouting.  It is where we teach our Scouts the skills and an appreciation for the outdoors and adventure.  It is were we let them play the game with a purpose and watch as they grow in leadership and we achieve the aims of Scouting.  It is in the outdoors that boys develop character and practice citizenship and fitness.
As the Boy Scouts of America states; “Learning by doing is a hallmark of outdoor education.  Unit meetings offer information and knowledge used on outdoor adventures each month throughout the year. A leader may describe and demonstrate a Scouting skill at a meeting, but the way Scouts truly learn outdoor skills is to do them themselves on a troop outing.”
There are many ways that the outdoor program can be executed.  The key is to just get outside and do it.  Make a commitment with the Patrol Leaders Council  to add high adventure activities to the Troop plan.  Make sure that every month has an outdoor overnight experience.  NEVER Cancel an outdoor activity.  Shame on the adults if they are the cause for failure of the outdoor program.  The outdoors is a must for Scouting to happen.  It is a must for the Scout to grow and meet the goals that Scouting has promised him.
Get out and play!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, Cooking, fitness, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Philmont, Scouting, Skills | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Loyalty to the Movement

scoutmastershipI have been in discussions lately.. yeah still talking about “The issue”.. the good news is simply this.  All of the discussions that I have been engaged in as of late are about where we go from here.  Moving on.
The “Gay” thing really has become a secondary issue.  What has become the primary topic is what we want Scouting to look like in the near and far future.  Most Scout leaders that I have talked with, emailed back and forth to, and bounced ideas via Twitter want to get back to basics.  I totally agree.
What this new spark has done for me is to look at what Scouting is really all about and why we do it.  It has brought back memories of when I was a boy and the great times that I had as a Scout.  It has asked me to look at how I work as a Scoutmaster and the example that I set for the boys of my Troop.
I am satisfied about how I am a Scoutmaster, but as with most things in life, I can do better.  To do better I need to get back to basics.  I need to teach, coach, train, and be a mentor to our Scouts in the tradition of what the Scouting Movement promotes and why it has had a lasting impact on not just the United States, but the world.
I think we fall short in the US in that we are not good historians.  We don’t look to the past to see what got us here.  We fail to look to the founders of the movement both here at home and of course Baden Powell as he founded Scouting with an idea and a promise.
Once again, I have been diving into Aides to Scoutmastership.  If you have not downloaded a copy or got a hard copy.. stop reading now.. open up another window and download your copy.. read it.
… OK.. you are back…  Great stuff in there, right?
Last night after the troop meeting a group of parents and I talked in the parking lot.. yeah.. you know, the meeting after the meeting.  They wanted to assure me that they are in it for the long haul.  That they believe in Scouting and they believe in how we offer the program in our troop.  We talked about religion and it’s role in Scouting and what responsibility, if any, we have as troop leaders when it comes to religion.  We don’t really have a role, other than being a good example.  What I wanted to share with the parents was my loyalty to the program, to the troop, and to Scouting.
When I got home, I pulled out my copy of Aides to Scoutmastership and started to dig in.  I wanted to see what BP had to say about our roles.  And I got hung up on this section:

Loyalty to the Movement
Let the Scoutmaster remember that in addition to his duty to his boys he has a duty also to the Movement as a whole. Our aim in making boys into good citizens is partly for the benefit of the country, that it may have a virile trusty race of citizens whose amity and sense of “playing the game” will keep it united internally and at peace with its neighbors abroad.  Charged with the duty of teaching self-abnegation and discipline by their own practice of it, Scoutmasters must necessarily be above petty personal feeling, and must be large-minded enough to subject their own personal views to the higher policy of the whole. Theirs is to teach their boys to “play the game,” each in his place like bricks in a wall, by doing the same themselves. Each has his allotted sphere of work, and the better he
devotes himself to that, the better his Scouts will respond to his training. Then it is only by looking to the higher aims of the Movement, or to the effects of measures ten years hence that one can see details of to-day in their proper proportion. Where a man cannot conscientiously take the line required, his one manly course is to put it straight to his Commissioner or to Headquarters, and if we cannot meet his views, then to leave the work. He goes into it in the first place with his eyes open, and it is scarcely fair if afterwards, because he finds the details do not suit him, he complains that it is the fault of the Executive.
Fortunately, in our Movement, by decentralization and giving a free hand to the local authorities, we avoid much of the red tape which has been the cause of irritation and complaint in so many other organizations.
We are also fortunate in having a body of Scoutmasters who are large-minded in their outlook and in their loyalty to the Movement as a whole.

It took a bit to digest that, remembering the time and place in which BP wrote the Aides to Scoutmastership.  Like I said in a post last week… the more things change, the more they stay the same.  You see, the world was a crazy place then.. and you know, with the exception of cool phones and the internet.. it’s still a crazy place.
When we demonstrate loyalty to the boys in our Troops, no matter what we personally think, we teach them valuable lessons in citizenship.  It is no secret that our country is divided politically.  The Boy Scouts of America prohibits us from participating in political or social activism in our role as Scoutmaster. We can not march in parades, use our position in Scouting to support a candidate or cause.  We can however remain loyal to the process and teach that to our Scouts.  Above all if we believe in Scouting we remain loyal to it.
It is because of generations of Scout leaders that came before us that got us through the rough spot in Scouting during the 70′s.  It got us through World Wars and many issues “of the day”.  Scouting did not change.
Anyway, I don’t want to get into a rant here.  I just think that we need to get back to basics.  Aides to Scoutmastership is one way that we can learn about what got us here.
Now that you have a copy, lets get into it and get back to the basics of the Scouting movement.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Scouting, training, Values | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

The more things change.. the more they stay the same

DanielBooneThose of you that have followed the blog for a while know that I am a fan and collector of Scouting literature.  I don’t just collect the books, magazines, and other literature, I love to get into them and see how Scouting was, how Green Bar Bill wrote and what the program looked like over the decades.
A common phrase I hear often from “older” Scouters is how things were “Back when I was a Scout”.  It seems that things were so much better back when we were Scouts.  But then I got to digging in to the literature and what I have found is that the more things change.. the more they really do stay the same.
Yes, before I get hate mail… Scouting has changed a lot over time, but really, it has stayed the same.
In the 1959 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook the Boy Scouts of America talks about YOU, the American Boy.
Before I get into this, I was listening to a podcast the other day.  The host of the podcast was talking about kids today and some of the things that they have lost over time.  Some of the heritage of America has not been adequately passed down to our kids.  I remember when I was a kid that we played like we were on the wild frontier of America.  I was Daniel Boone and some of my friends would play the roles of Davy Crockett and Kit Carson, and Wild Bill Hickok.  We would fight the battle of the Alamo, build rafts and float down the “Missouri”.  We built forts and tried to live the legends of American History.  I once met Daniel Boone at Frontier land in Disneyland.  It was a great day, you would have thought Daniel Boone came back just for me to meet him.
I think everyone I knew could sing every word of Davy Crockett.  You remember.. he was the “King of the wild Frontier”.
I think watching the tv shows, seeing our hero’s at Disneyland, and learning about them in Scouting, School, and out in the woods shaped how we played the game with a purpose then.
Who are the hero’s today?  Who are those Davy Crockett’s that the kids today run through the woods acting like?
The 1959 handbook talks about the American boy…
“Have you ever dreamed of hiking the wilderness trails that were worn down under moccasins hundreds of years ago?  Do you hear in your imagination the almost soundless dip-dip of Indian canoe paddles or the ring of the axe of an early pioneer hewing a home out of the American wilderness?  Have you followed with your mind’s eye the covered wagons on the trek across our continent?  Have you thought of the men and women who built our country by their determination and devotion?  You are the descendant of those people.  You are the guardian of what they built.  You are the American on whom the future of our wonderful country depends.”
Great writing.  It inspired Scouts for years to learn about our heritage and not feel ashamed of being an American boy.  It valued the spirit of the pioneer, the frontiersman, the explorer an encouraged the Scout to seek that adventure and become a part of the American Narrative.
We have lost that kind of writing in our current handbooks.  Now the handbook gets the Scout to the next rank.  But the more they change, the more they are the same. Where we have lost it is in us.  We have stopped teaching them.  We have stopped allowing them to be American boys.
“Today you are an American boy.  Before long you will be an American man.”  The ’59 handbook continues.  “It is important to America that you become a citizen of fine character, physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”  We all agree that there is no change there.  The handbook, as in today’s handbook sets the course for the Scout to begin a life of values and adventure.  “Yes, it’s fun to be a Boy Scout!  It’s fun to go hiking and camping with your best friends… to swim, to dive, to paddle a canoe, to wield and axe…  to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who led the way through the wilderness…to stare into the glowing embers of a campfire and dream of the wonders of the life that is in store for you.”  Do we make that promise to our boys today?  Why not?  Nothing has changed there.  The world is not that much different.
I always tell our new Scouts as we sit around the campfire to watch the older boys as they join us in the circle.  There is a magic in the campfire.  It is a magic that no matter who you are or what your job is in the troop, it plays true every time.  That magic is in the embers.  It forces one to stare and quietly be a part of it.  And sure enough, someone will join us in the circle and their eyes will immediately move to glow of the fire.  Where once a loud noise came is now silent and engaged in the magic of Scouting.  It is for us to not allow things to change.  Scouting is rich in tradition, values, adventure, and spirit.  The more things change, the more that will always stay the same.  If we want it to.
I think that we need to go back and take a look at old handbooks.  Look at the writing of William Hillcourt and how he could draw the imagination of the boys of America.  Look how he engaged them to being a part of the rich heritage and adventurous spirit of Americans before them.
We have lost that spirit and way that pull the boys of America into this great adventure.  It will be gone if we don’t share it.  If we don’t allow them to be American boys.
Building rafts like Huck Finn and standing atop the Alamo defending an ideal.  Hanging out in a tree house and hiking off into the wilderness in search of new land.  We hold them back in the name of protection, we kill their spirit of adventure and call it safety.  I cringe at the thought of not passing on our American spirit to this generation of boys.
They want it.. they just don’t know what it is.
The more things change.. the more the American boy is the same.. Let him be one!
“When you are a Scout, forest and field, rivers and lakes,  are your playground. You are completely at home in God’s great outdoors.  You learn to notice every sound,  to observe every track.  Birds and animals become your friends.  You master the skills of walking noiselessly through the woods, of stalking close to a grazing deer without being noticed, of bringing a bird to you by intimating it’s call.  You learn to find your way cross country by map and compass, to make a meal when you are hungry, to take a safe swim when you are hot, to make yourself comfortable for the night in a tent or under the stars.  You become a true outdoorsman.”  Boy just like when I was a kid acting like Daniel Boone.. the king of the wild frontier.   This was Scouting when I was a boy… and it is Scouting now.  We just need to remember that things really have not changed that much.. it is us that changed.  The wilderness still calls, adventure still yells for our boys to come.  Are you going to let them?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Cooking, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Methods, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, stories, Values | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Sing.. it’s a part of Scouting

singI once heard a quote somewhere in which supposedly Baden-Powell said, and I am paraphrasing “the mark of a real Scout troop is one that sings.”  I can’t remember where or when I heard that but when I think about my Scouting experience as a youth some of my fondest memories are of us singing.  We sand while we hiked, we sang while we sat around the camp fire, and we sang at meetings.  Singing was a big part of Scouting and it just did not seem right if we did not sing.
This is a tradition that I have passed on in my Troop.  Our troop loves to sing.  We sing around the camp fire, we sing while we hike, and we sing to close every meeting.
Some of the Scouts love to sing more than others, but once the singing starts, it is contagious.  There are certain songs that are staples in the Troop.  Songs that get everyone involved.  The Quartermaster Store is a favorite of the boys, they can go for a half hour trying to find new rhymes and ways to poke fun at one another.  Old Lady Leary is another favorite of our Troop and they see which patrol can out shout the other.  Staying on the Sunny side of life is yet another song that gets the guys singing.
I think that singing is a huge part of Scouting and needs to be a part of every unit.  Once they start this fine tradition they will look for ways to work it in to their program.
There is something about the Scout spirit that comes with song.  It leaves lasting memories that will last forever.  Songs that will come back again and again that make those camp outs memorable and fun.
I was searching the internet for a song that was my all time favorite when I was a young Scout.  It was called “It’s a lie”.  I found it yesterday and immediately smiled as I thought about the summer camp when I first heard it.  It was 1978 at Camp Freedom in the Transatlantic Council.  The opening camp fire was spectacular.    The camp staff led an action packed night, songs and skits and lots of stories about the camp and Scouting.  The camp fire ended with the Order of the Arrow doing a tap out ceremony.  But that song stuck in my head and for the next week I sang it all day long.  I think my Scoutmaster finally had to get another song stuck in my head before he went crazy.
Anyway.. it was singing and a song that brought back a flood of great memories.
Here are the words to my memorable song… you find yours.

I was born a hundred thousand years ago. (YEARS AGO) 
And there’s nothing in this world I do not know. (DO NOT KNOW) 
I saw Peter, Paul, and Moses playing ring-around the roses, 
And I’ll lick the guy who says it isn’t so. (IT ISN’T SO)

Chorus:
It’s a lie; It’s a lie ; Ship ahoy, ship ahey, ship a hi-hi-hi!
Oh, I’ve sailed the seven seas and I’ve sniffed the salty breeze, 
But I never, ever, ever saw a mermaid. (A MERMAID)

I was there when Satan looked the garden o’er. (GARDEN O’ER) 
I saw Adam and Eve a’driven from the door. (FROM THE DOOR) 
I was round the corner peekin’ at the apple they was eatin’ 
I can prove I was the guy that ate the core. (ATE THE CORE)

I was there when Caesar crossed the Rubicon. (RUBICON) 
I’m the guy who built the raft he crossed it on. (CROSSED IT ON) 
I saw Nero burning Rome, and Hannibal at home. 
I even saw the fall of Babylon. (BABBLE ON)

I saw Washington afloat a cake of ice. (CAKE OF ICE) 
I saw Sherman, Lee, and Grant a shakin’ dice. (SHAKIN’ DICE)
I saw Roosevelt’s great laugh that split his face in half, 
While Pershing set a trap for German mice. (GERMAN MICE)

You may thing that all this bunk, it isn’t true. (IT ISN’T TRUE)
But what difference does it really make to you? (MAKE TO YOU)
I’ve been feeding you this line just to pass away the time, 
And now I’m going to quit because I’m through. (YOU’RE THROUGH)

Sing with your Scouts!!!  It makes a difference.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, Camping, Just fun, Patrol Method, Scouting, stories | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

From the Desk of the Scoutmaster

Dear Parents,

As you may be aware, the Boy Scouts of America voted the other day to change its policy to allow boys that are homosexual to join the organization.  This decision, even though it has been debated for the better part of a year continues to draw much discussion.  At the National Meetings of the BSA the resolution was passed with a 60% approval.  Earlier this year the BSA asked us to participate in a survey on this issue.  I made the choice to participate in the survey and allowed my voice to be heard.  It is my belief that the 60% approval is a fair representation of those that took the survey.
And so it is with thoughtful consideration that I feel the need to address this issue with all of you.
Within our Troop we have discussed this issue and have various opinions ranging from full support to no support of the decision.   I have not withheld my opinion in the matter and am available to discuss where I stand in the matter, but I think this letter should serve to express how this decision should have an effect on our Troop, which ultimately is how I feel about the issue.
I think it fair to share some of the common arguments against the decision and where I think the Boy Scouts of America stand.  I can not speak on behalf of the BSA, but I feel that I am in agreement with the policy change.  You will see how and why in this letter.
First, the argument over the ability for a Scout to live up to the promise that he makes to be “Morally Straight”.  I do not see an issue here as we as Scout leaders do not define a Scouts morals.  The Boy Scouts of America have always insisted that moral instruction is the responsibility of the of the family and the religious institution of the individual Scout.  At best it is my responsibility to model moral behavior.  Behavior that I was taught as a young boy by my family and my faith group.  I think it is safe to say that my family and my faith formation have led me to being a good man that makes sound moral decisions.  I am of the belief that parents all start off with the best intentions for their children.  Parents that introduce their boy to Scouting understand the timeless values and the ideals that Scouting offers.  Parents that want their son to enjoy Scouting know and understand the shared commitment of the Scout Oath and Law that Scouts and Scouters make.  Most parents may not understand the policies of the BSA or the methods of the program, but just like the average person, they know in one way or another, that Scouting is about doing good.
The decision to allow gay boys to join Scouting does not change our values in the least.  We find the values of the BSA in the Scout Oath and Law.  Just as I remind your son during the many Scoutmaster conferences we share, we make three promises in the Scout Oath.  Those promises are our duty.  They are to serve our God and Country, to Help other people at all times, and to remember the promise we make to ourselves in keeping ourselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Before we leave the Scout Oath, let me remind you that during our Scoutmaster Conference your Scout holds all of the answers that allow him to grow and advance, largely in part to how you have raised him and not because he says the Scout Oath.  The Boy Scouts do not define God and does not require a Scout to be religious.  When a Scout promises to do his duty to God and Country, we allow the Scout to decide who or what that God is.  The Scout handbook tells us that we are to respect others and their religious convictions.  When I ask your son what that means to him, I become a listener and not a judge.  I firmly believe that in that answer we learn about how the Scout is growing in his faith and watch as he fine tunes his moral compass.  When a Scout is struggling with this discussion I ask a few leading questions.  Those questions are simply this, do you believe that it is a good thing to “do to others as you would like done to you?”  They typically answer yes, which leads to question number two, “what does that mean to you?”  Then I share with your Scout that religions of every creed maintain that as a foundation of living a good life.  That simple phrase known as the “Golden Rule” is the magnetic pull that keeps our moral compass straight.  It has nothing to do with life style or sexual behavior.  It guides us in treating others with respect and dignity and is a foundation for the Scout law, the second area in which we find the values of Scouting.
It is with that in mind that we can expect our Scouts to live the Scout Law.  To be trustworthy to one another, Loyal to family, friends, God and Country.  It demands that we are helpful  as you are aware we ask our Scouts to develop a habit of being a selfless servant.  A Scout is a friend to all, so says the founder of Scouting Lord Baden-Powell.  We ask that our Scouts are courteous and kind to one another and practice that at home, school, and in their daily lives.  I can go on about how and what we expect from our boys in living the Scout law, but I will touch on just two more points that I think are relevant in this discussion.  Obedient and Reverent.
Once again, as their Scoutmaster and role model, I find that it is my position to be obedient to the BSA and it’s policies.  I do not have to agree with the gay lifestyle or the choice to be homosexual.  Once this policy change goes into effect in January of 2014, I will comply and welcome every boy who wants to be a Scout into our troop.
Reverent.  The Boy Scout Handbook tells us that a Scout is Reverent.  According to the handbook that is defined as such;  “A Scout is reverent.  A Scout is reverent toward God.  He is faithful in his religious duties.  He respects the beliefs of others.”  Please take note that the definition does not define the Boy Scouts of America’s belief, it directly instructs the Scout to do HIS duty and be faithful in HIS religious duties and HE respects the beliefs of others.  HE and HIS not OURS and THE BSA.  Now this may seem like an easy out, but to be honest with you I would not have it any other way.  Look at our Troop, we have members from many different faith groups.  We have a wide variety of Scouts with many different levels of faith formation.  We treat them all the same.  We expect them to live what you have taught them and couple that home and church formation with that of the Scout Oath and Law.
So how will this be different with a gay Scout?  It won’t be.  Again, I am going to assume that the parents of that young man want the best for him.  They want him to be in an organization that maintains a good set of values, that by and large will be consistent with those of their family, no matter what that family looks like.  Again, that is not for me as a Scoutmaster to judge.
Here is the bottom line as I see it.
Our troop is going to maintain the values of the Boy Scouts of America.  We are going to continue to focus on the mission of the BSA and never go away from the three aims of Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  We will use the eight methods to achieve those aims.  We will still go camping every month.  We will not change our program in the slightest.  Just as we did not change when you brought your son to our troop, we will not change for any other boy who joins our unit.
I can assure you that our Troop understands and practices youth protection and this too will not change.  The Boy Scouts of America have sound practices when it comes to protecting our youth.  Nothing here will change.  We will maintain a safe, friendly environment for your son and all of the Scouts of our troop.  We will address all personal issues as they happen, just like we currently do for the Scouts that we currently serve.  We will observe their privacy, and respect each and everyone in our troop as we would have them respect us.
Many Scouters are already talking about leaving the Boy Scouts over this issue.  I know that we will lose some really good people, I hope none from our troop, but I do understand that some people must be true to how they feel and what they know as the direction of their moral compass.  I would hope that you all trust that we have the best interest of your Scout in mind in everything we do.
To those that feel the need to part ways with our organization, I wish you well and pray that you do not have ill feelings toward those of us that stay.  I welcome you back whenever that time is right for you and your family.  I believe in the Boy Scouts of America and regardless of this policy change and the heart ache that it seems to have caused,  is still the very best youth organization on earth.  I believe this with all of my heart, and I trust that you understand that I am sincere.
Please feel free to discuss this issue with me personally if you have the need.  I think it important that you understand that I am not and neither is the Boy Scouts of America, asking that you accept the homosexual life style.  It is expected that all people are treated with respect and dignity.  This is all I can ask of you, your Scout and our troop.
The Boy Scouts of America has made many ground breaking changes in its 103 years.  This will not be the last.  The testament of the stability of this great organization is in its timeless values that are there for everyone.
I thank you for the time and hope we have a lasting relationship in the future.
Yours in Scouting.
And as Always, Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

Camporee

Well, Camporee is over once again for another year.
Here are some thoughts on the weekend…
First and foremost I need to tell you that pride is just one word that comes to mind when it comes to how I feel about the boys of my Troop.  Now, you may be saying to yourself… yeah Jer.. You say that all the time.. and yes, yes I do, but this time it is a “Coming of age” kind of pride.
As you also know, our troop camps using a “Backpacking style” of camping.  We don’t have patrol boxes, we pack it in and pack it out, and we insist on boy leadership.  We teach our Scouts to be self-reliant and to think and do things for themselves.  Above all we have fun.
Our senior Patrol runs the Troop and is trained and guided to make sound decisions.  They are not always right and they certainly are not always popular, but in the end the Troop seems to meet its goals.
Maybe it’s me, but for more than a few years it seems that our Troop has been sort of black sheep within the district.  Until recently the only Troop that camped strictly using Backpacking methods.  This year we noticed that a few more Troops are adopting our style of camping.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages of being a backpacking Troop in a car camping district.
Super fast set up and take down and smaller footprint.  I think this one and cooking are the two things that other Troops can’t wrap their heads around.  We got into camp at about 7:30 PM.  Within an hour we were all set up and working on the gateway.. we will talk about the gateway later.  The camp site gets up quickly and allows for the patrols to get to the business of having fun.
This morning, the Scouts hit their typical Sunday routine.  They woke up and started packing.  Once packed, they cooked breakfast and finished camp chores.  The troop was pretty much ready to go, but given a set schedule for camporee made the choice to lolly gag around camp.  This is both a disadvantage and advantage.  Lots of time, and nowhere to go when it comes to waiting on the rest of the schedule.
Cooking and clean up is easy and not without a good meal plan.  A big misconception is that backpackers only eat freeze-dried cardboard.  Not so.  If you can cook it on a green stove, you can cook it backpacking and this was demonstrated all weekend as the boys cooked great meals
Lighter loads made for easy load out and pack up.  I figure this is where many Troops have a problem with the way we camp.  Immediately after closing ceremonies we were loaded in the cars and on our way home.  As we drove off we could see the “heavy Troops” still taking down camp and loading up the trailers.
Now, I don’t really have a problem with the car camping style.. it’s just not for me and certainly not for our Troop.  It is nice to wake up cook, clean up, pack and hike out.  Makes for happy Scouts that, at the end of a good weekend can look forward to easy tear down of camp.  A couple of our Scouts were talking with one of the troops next to us.  They reported that the Scouts were not happy that they had at least an hour of clean up, tear down, and then put away once they got home.  It is so much easier to load a bunch of backpacks into the truck and drive away.
To be honest, I find no merit in making the Scouts unhappy.
Our Troop never scores well on the camp site inspection, largely in part to the fact that the folks doing the grading don’t know what to look for.  They are looking for patrol boxes, watch stations, and tents that are all pitched in a row with even spacing and Canopies to cook under.  We don’t get scored high because our cook kits are put away after each meal and our food is hung in bear bags.  They don’t see the little bottle of camp suds that we use to clean our pots and mess kits and they are not used to seeing single person tents or tarp set ups.  So we have grown accustomed to just camping and having a fun weekend at camp o ree.  The Scouts don’t seem to mind that we don’t “win” each year, but it is clear that they have a great time.  That is not say that the Patrols don’t come away empty-handed.  Each year they show well in the events and always take home ribbons.  But as a total score, I am afraid that we won’t get the grand prize until the committee decides to grade backpacking troops fairly.  This is going to be an issue in the near future as more troops are adopting our style of camping.
We had a large group of Webelos camp with us this year.  A Troop guide volunteered to be their guide all weekend and he did a spectacular job.  I think of the 8 Webelos, we should get at least 6 of them to cross over into the Troop.  They are motivated and liked the way we camped and had fun.  The Dad’s that camped with us from the Webelos seemed to have a good time and were impressed with the way our boys ran the troop.  It was a good opportunity for them to see the Troops of the District all at once.  It was really good for us when they noticed a couple of troops that had the moms and dads doing all the cooking for the boys.  “That is not the way Scouting should be” said one of the Dad’s.  I could not help be agree.
Where are the judges when the Scouts are not doing their own cooking.. but hey to each their own.  That’s not how we do it.  Green Bar Bill is flipping in his grave.
Our Scouts did a great job this weekend.. Perfect, No… but perfect in the way we do Scouting.
We had a real fun time this weekend and like I said at the beginning.. I am proud of the Scouts of my troop.
Our Assistant Senior Patrol Leader got an opportunity to lead the Troop this weekend and continued to develop into a good leader.  He stepped up and did a nice job.  It was nice to work with him and teach him some leadership techniques.  Watching him apply them was rewarding for both him and I.  Real proud of him… he will be a great Senior Patrol Leader.
Our Senior Patrol leader was torn this weekend between the Venturing Crew that he is a member of and the Troop.  He did a fantastic job this weekend, but I could tell that he was torn when the Crew earned the Top spot for Crews this year.
Each Scout learned something this weekend and once again tested leadership and skills.  It’s those things that make me a proud Scoutmaster.
Have a great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Skills, teamwork | 3 Comments

Passion

course_logoI just walked in the door from another fantastic Wood badge course.  W1-492-13 is now in its application phase and as the participants walked out of camp yesterday I could not help but think about the impact that was about to hit the Scouting world.
53 Scouters took labored steps toward their cars yesterday heading back out into the Scouting world with a new set of tools, a renewed spirit in Scouting and new friendships made.
As the staff gathered to have a final staff meeting the comment was made that like a pebble thrown into a pond causing ripples, we have cast our pebbles into the pond of Scouting and the impact will be endless.  Those 53 Scouters will make such a difference within their units, districts, and even the Council.  Touching the lives or more Scouts and other Scouters than any single leader can.  When we talk about making a difference, I believe that Scouters that have the Wood Badge experience make a the biggest splash!
I love Wood Badge and each time I participate, I learn more.  Wood Badge compels me to take seriously the concept of life long learning.  This was my second time on staff, and I hope not the last.  The first time I staffed Wood Badge, I learned more than I think I learned as a participant.  In fact, diving into the syllabus I know that I learned the material which allowed me to make a difference as a Troop Guide.  This time I served the Wood Badge course as the Assistant Scoutmaster for Support and Physical Arrangements.  Part of the Administrative staff I got to see “the other side” of Wood Badge.  I got to see the nuts and bolts that it takes to hold a Wood Badge course together.  And I must say that while the troop guides make a hands on impact on the learner, the admin staff set the enviroment for good learning.  They coordinate speakers, materials, and facilities and most of all are the guardians of maintaining the standards of the Wood Badge course.  Ensuring that the syllabus is followed and the learners have the best opportunity to succeed.
Ok, that’s all logical and expected.  It was a great experience to be on the staff in this position.
Here is what I saw that has made a lasting impact on me.  Yeah.. on me.
Our Course Director/ Scoutmaster is John Caputo, he is a Scouters Scouter.  He is humble and knowledgeable.  He is compassionate and strict, he is a great teacher.
Spending the the last 6 months on his staff was special.  John’s greatest lesson was passion.  John is passionate about Scouting, but more specifically, his passion lies in training.  He has been a Trainer in Scouting for “a few years”.  His knowledge and commitment to dropping rocks in the pond is not just visible, it’s contagious.  I left the Wood Badge staff in 2011 with a renewed committment to my Scouts and the Scouting world as well as being a better father, husband, and friend.  I left this years staff with a renewed passion for training, for making my troops leaders better, and with the first draft of my next ticket.  A ticket the will focus on my wife.
This is the impact of Wood Badge and I love it.  It is such a special part of my life and I am happy.
Thanks John!
Have you found passion in your Scouting world?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Camping, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, respect, Scouting, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Wood Badge | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Just do something…

DSCN0627

It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster.  As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop.  We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered.  Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different.  James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders.  I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything.  We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t.  It comes down to decision-making and common sense.  We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.

When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from.  The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing.  What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired.  In short, they do not have a good time.  We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting.  There are a few arguments for and against.  I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun.  I have also been told to stay the course.  Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers.  Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure.  They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop.  As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will.  We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful.  But we require that they make a choice.  They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn.  That is up to them.  Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class.  I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man.  the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man.  Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class.  But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves.  Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it?  Why have they not made the choice?  Is it a lack of training?  Is it a lack of want to?  Is it something that we have done or failed to do?  We could not put our finger on it.  Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago?  We don’t really know.  They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices.  So what is it?  We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop?  Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out.  Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills.  The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping.  I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out.  I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too.  It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what?  I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk.  I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us.  For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there.  These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter.  I am ok with all of it.
What do you think?  I think that things will be just fine.  I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future.  I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves.  I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble.  Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice.  That’s what I think.  I am curious to see what your thoughts are.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, fitness, gear, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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