Service

Leadership – Teaching Opportunity

IMG_1978One of the main functions of the Scoutmaster is to train the Junior Leaders, in particular, the Senior Patrol Leader.  I take this responsibility serious and am in a constant mode of looking for opportunities to train the Scouts to be better leaders.
Most of the training is informal and as we find ourselves in opportune times where a lesson has presented itself.  What I have found is that, first, our Scouts really don’t know what they don’t know, and second, they don’t look for opportunities to learn and train others.
Now that is a pretty lofty statement, let me explain what I mean.. here is the training opportunity.
Teen age boys typically look for the easy way out.  They find the path of least resistance, which in turn puts them in challenging leadership roles.  They typically want to just get along and resist confrontation when it comes to being a leader.
Whether it is because the Scout lacks confidence or leadership skills they find themselves in situations that often times leave them feeling unsuccessful.  This is where a good tool box full of good leadership tools comes in.
I had a discussion the other night with a Patrol leader.  He feels like no one really wants to listen to him.  So, asking a few leading questions we took a look at his leadership style and gave him tools to make it better.
First, the leader needs to understand who he is leading and why he is leading.  Is it a specific task that needs to be accomplished or just general leadership within the confines of a Patrol?  The leader needs to look for opportunities to be “the man”.  Here is what I mean by that… Leaders are not Bosses.. but leaders are the “go to” guys that people want to follow.  The leader become “the Man” when he can display in his leadership the 4 “C”s.
Courage, Candor, Competence, and Compassion.
Courage.  It takes Courage to be a leader, especially a leader of Scouts.  You will not always make popular decisions and you may be put in situations that pit you one against another.  The Leader with Courage will always do what is right and the right thing for the good of his Patrol, or Troop.
Candor.  Tell it like it is.  Tell the Truth and never shy away from the truth.  If a member of the Patrol is acting in the wrong way or not doing a skill correctly, don’t be afraid to hurt their feelings, tell the truth.  We as leaders need to worry less about feeling and focus more on actions.  Actions or the way we act and do things are far more important than feelings.  A leader that demonstrates candor is respected and shows his good character.
Competence.  No one wants to follow a leader that does not know what the heck they are doing.  Following a lost leader gets the whole group lost.  To build competence the leader must keep learning and testing themselves.  Sharpening skills and looking inward at their decision-making.  Constantly working to fill the tool box.
And Compassion.  We lead people and manage equipment.  Being that leader that cares about those that they lead grows confidence in the follower.  When we genuinely care about making those around us better, they see it and start to build a better relationship within the team.  When we care about teaching them and showing them the right way to do anything, we make them better.  When we care enough to model expected behavior, those that we lead will follow and show that behavior back to us.
Taking the four “C”s and putting them to use will make the leader better and keep him focused.
The four “C”s also give the leader a simple set of standards so he can focus on what is important in his Patrol.  My Patrol leader did not think that his patrol listened to him.  So I asked the simple questions; What are you saying and How are you saying it?  Do you come at your Patrol competent and compassionate?  We discussed a missed opportunity that he had over the weekend camp out.  A simple task of cooking a meal could have been a million dollar lesson to his patrol in skill and fun.  That patrol was cooking venison steaks.  The missed opportunity was how they cooked them.  A little bit of prior planning on the Patrol leaders part could have made him “The Man”.
Cooking steaks over an open fire would have made a bigger bang within the patrol, rather, they cooked on a frying pan and used up lots of cooking utensils and time.  The Patrol leader missed the opportunity to get his younger Scouts involved in the process and about 10 minutes into the ordeal of cooking, he lost them.
It was a great opportunity that was lost because he took the path of least resistance.
“The Good Idea Fairy”
I have listened in on many Patrol meetings.  Most Patrol meetings end in frustration when members of the Patrol do not feel that they are being listened to.  Sometimes the Patrol Leader needs to let the Good Idea Fairy be heard.  Jotting down an idea or two and seeing how they can be worked into the plan for the next event.  Maybe cooking over the open fire came up, but was dismissed by the leader.  When the leader lets those ideas happen they get buy in from those that they lead.
Always look for that Teaching Opportunity.  They are always there and we as Scoutmasters need to be on top of it.   Allow the situation to run its course and then sit down with the Patrol Leader or other leaders and ask those leading questions that get them thinking beyond the path of least resistance.
Scouts are looking for that challenge and they want to be challenges.  They just don’t know what they don’t know and you know… sometimes they are afraid that we are going to say no to them or shut down their great ideas.  Go with it.  We need to use those four “C”s also.
If it is not unsafe, unethical, or not outside of the Scouting program.. say Yes and let them find that learning opportunity.  You will be the man when you keep learning and growing in your leadership also.
Almost everything we do in Scouting will come with a teaching opportunity.  Find it and share it.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, respect, Scout, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Values | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mike Rowe.. Distinguished Eagle Scout

While I am camping with my Troop this weekend I thought I would leave you with some great entertainment and a message that is priceless.
I stumbled on this video on YouTube the other night while my wife and I were talking about our experience at the National Meetings that we got to attend.  It was a special part of my Scouting life.
We watched Mike Rowe talk at the National Jamboree in 2010 and he is a great example of just Scouting does.
Enjoy the weekend and this video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, comments, Ideals, Jamboree, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Order of the Arrow, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, stories, Values | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scouting… Cool?

cropped-rockwellphilmont.jpgFirst off.. if you are a Scout or Scouter read this post with caution.  You may not agree with some of what I am going to say.  Know that I love the Boy Scouts of America.  I am always trying to tell our story in the best light of Scouting.  I think it is the greatest youth program around.  But in the discussion of membership it is fair that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, Why is it Not cool to be a Scout?  Please, if you disagree, read to the end and then leave a comment.
One of the most common things that I hear as a Scoutmaster during conferences is that sometimes our youth don’t feel that it is cool to be a Scout.  Peer pressure at School and in their neighborhoods, comments made, and the fact that in most cases the uniform causes a boy to shy away from the program and certainly not invite his friends to join something that is not cool.
So why is that?
In my opinion one of the reasons is that we and the National Council do a terrible job at telling Scouting’s story.  In our focus to deliver the “Main thing” we have lost sight on what Scouting has traditionally been about.
When I was a Scout, and I cringe at starting a sentence that way, but none the less, when I was a Scout I joined the Boy Scouts because it looked cool.  I was drawn to the adventure.  I was longing for to be in a group that Norman Rockwell painted climbing to the Tooth of Time or heading out for a weekend of canoeing.  I watched as older boys embraced leadership and taught me skills in the outdoors.  Older guys that played on the high school football team that we all looked up to but were not afraid to lead a song or skit at camp.  Members of the Order of the Arrow that dressed like plains Indians and stood in canoes with torches blazing, landing on the shore and presenting dramatic ceremonies that left me wanting to be a part of their group.
While I am a believer that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are… I am also a believer that we can take the Scout on an adventure that will challenge him and leave him wanting more.  Instead, the Scouting story is that of catering to the lowest common denominator.  We dumb things down because of parents that are over protective and do not understand Scouting.
We take away from the challenge and make it “Accessible”.  I want every boy to have the opportunity to be a Scout, but I want every boy to accept the challenges that lead to self-reliance, life long skills, good character, and being fit.  There is plenty in Scouting for all, but we have made it so restrictive that leaders no longer feel that they can seek and provide adventures in their units.
THE PRESS.
Bad press is the only press.  That’s the story we get.  It does not impact our youth that much, but it keeps Mom and Dad from bringing their son to us.  When all we see is bad press, we judge the program based on it.  Suddenly all Scout leaders are fat bone heads that push over billion year old rock formations.  We are all looking to abuse youth.  We are all.. well you get the point.
But what of good press.  National does nothing.  No ads on TV.  Yes, I know that costs money, but what does the BSA waste each year fighting in the courts?  How much does the BSA waste in preaching to the choir?  They target the membership campaigns to those who are already in Scouting and fail to tell our story to those that need to hear it.
We have been systematically removed from the Schools, the Churches are bailing, and parents see this as an organization that can’t keep it’s poop in a group.  It’s all bad press and yet we do nothing to turn the tide of the bad publicity.
We tend to circle our wagons and rally the troops from within the organization, but that’s it.
I watched a great video the other day on YouTube.  Rex Tillerson, the former BSA President talking at the National Meetings of the BSA about the new changes that are taking effect.  Of course I am talking about the new Non discrimination policy.  What Rex had to say was fantastic, but you know, I bet only Scouters saw it.  Why was it not on TV?  Why did the BSA not contact the major media outlets and networks and have that 10 minute video or parts of it in the main stream media?  10,358 views on Youtube.. and I bet they are all Scout people.  A google search produced hits on the video all associated with Scouting websites, blogs, and of course the National office.
NERDS.
Scouting is for nerds.  Just ask your Scouts.  That’s what they will tell you their classmates think.  I recently sat with one of my Scouts at his Eagle Board of Review.  One of the board members asked him if he thought Scouting was not cool.  He answered that he thought it was cool, but it was not cool to those guys at his high School.  The discussion kept going, “Why do you think that?” the Board member asked.  “Because of what they think we do in Scouts” the Eagle candidate answered.  “What do they think we do?”  “Well, for the most part they think we go camping, but it’s mostly about crafts and artsy stuff.”
Crafts and artsy stuff.  Yep, that is what we have become.
As a Cub Scout I remember doing craftsy stuff.  Soap box derby races, pinewood derby and rockets led the list of cool things that we did as a den.  The craftsy stuff when we got to Boy Scouts was Monkey bridges that actually crossed water.  Signal towers that you could actually climb.  Earning the Paul Bunyan Ax man award and actually chopping down trees.
But that’s all gone now.  In the name of Safety?  Really?  No, in the name of insurance fear.  I am not advocating getting Scouts hurt, but we didn’t then so what’s changed.  We moved away from adventure and got wrapped up in the lowest impact don’t let Tommy Tenderfoot get dirty family camp.
Look at our merit badge program.  Last summer at camp we had more Scouts earn the finger printing merit badge than the canoeing merit badge.  It is what we have become.
We as parents have forgotten that our boys need to be boys.  We as parents have forgotten that getting dirty is part of childhood.  Playing in the woods and coming home when the street lights come on is part of the adventure of being a boy.
We are so afraid that every boy is a victim.  Every boy is fragile and a broken bone is the end of the world.  I once broke two bones in my arm when I was 10.  What was I doing?  Trying to fly.  Not smart, but you know what, I am no worse for ware.
I watched a Patrol mate burn his eye brows off blowing on a camp fire.  A great laugh and no harm done.  I can remember coming home from camp outs and my mom not letting me in the house till I first took all my clothing off and hosed down in the backyard.  I learned, I grew, and I am a better person for it.
I never earned Basketry or the Art merit badge, and if it were around in 1980 I would not have earned the game design merit badge.  game-designI did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges.  Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
OUR STORY.
The Boy Scouts of America has a rich tradition and yes it has undergone many changes since 1910, but our story is the same.  Our Story is still about Character building and Citizenship.  Our Story is still about challenge and finding our limits and growing from experience.  Our Story is still about great outdoor programs.  Our Story is still about adventure and life long learning.  Our Story is cool.  But we don’t tell our story the way we want it heard.  We don’t take the opportunity not to be just another YMCA or after school program, but to be the Boy Scouts of America full of the cool stuff that boys want and need.
We tell the story of numbers and membership, but forget that not everyone wants to be or should be a Scout.  We tell the story of abuse and scandal without telling the story of the million great things going on every week at meetings and on monthly camp outs.
We get excited when we have a mediocre district event and wonder why our Scouts are not better recruiters.  We miss out on telling our story in the media when things are going good.  We miss the boat on getting ahead of bad press and showing the Boy Scouts for what we really are.  We are cool, we are making a difference, we are what we say we are.  But, for a group that prides itself of spinning a great campfire yarn, we don’t do a great job of telling our story.
Some thoughts.  We clean up and get ourselves right.  When we have guests come to our house, we straighten up, vacuum, and maybe even light a candle to make the place smell good.
Scouting needs to do that.  We need to get our leaders to wear their uniform right and agree to deliver the promise of Scouting using the methods.  Leaders need to be trained.
We need to get our Scouts in full uniforms out in the community doing something other than selling popcorn or marching in a parade.  We need to show Scouts doing service and other cool stuff that really makes a difference.
We need to budget for local advertising.  We need to get in the media in a positive light every opportunity we can.
We need to sell adventure… Not just another chess club.  (I have nothing against chess, but we are talking adventure here) Boys want and need adventure.
We need to get with current outdoor practices and try new methods of camping.  It is fun for the boys and increases the challenge for the whole unit.
We need to develop better relationships with the Forest service and Park Rangers.  They are a great resource for Scouting.
Do you want Scouting to be cool?  Then you need to act cool.  You need to be cool.  You need to look cool.  Hey, we are cool… right?
I am tired of the BSA getting beat up for nonsense.  I see so much potential in how we can move ahead to tell our story so we can change the perception of Scouting.  And then, our numbers will go up, boys will stay longer, and we will be cool, not just to us, but to everyone.
Your thoughts?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, fitness, gear, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, Summer Camp, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

YouTube Channel bump

Again with the reset subject.
Yesterday, I did some major work on the YouTube channel.  I am phasing out the old channel, which became a real pain switching back and forth between accounts… so it’s all in one nice bundle now.
Like I said before, most of the videos will post here on the blog also, but not all.
So here is the trailer for the new and improved channel… same old me.. but new focus for 2014!

Stay tuned friends… I have a great give away coming up!  Just wrapped up the details yesterday… Look for details this weekend!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Patrol Method, Philmont, reviews, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, technology, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Thermometer or Thermostat?

thermostatThermometer or Thermostat which are you?
I had a lengthy discussion the other day with a hand full of Scouts.  We were talking about the way that if you want to, you can set the conditions in your life that will allow you to have the life that you want.  Let me explain.  For example, if you continue with your education, you will get better jobs.  If you surround yourself with good people, you will stay out of trouble.  If you manage your money well, you will have some when you need it.
So you are either a Thermometer or a Thermostat.
The thermometer is something that is effected by the temperature.  It is effected by the conditions and can do nothing about it.  It’s either hot or its cold.. or somewhere on the scale between, but the thermometer can not decide whether or not it’s going to be hot or cold, it just goes with whatever the conditions dictate.
There are a lot of people who are like that, they have no control over the conditions that life gives them.  They play the part of the victim and never seem to get ahead.  They are content with allowing the conditions dictate their behavior and the level of success that they have.   They rarely demonstrate initiative and are happy to allow others to make decisions.  They are rarely happy with the outcome, but that’s just the way it is.
On the other hand, there are those that are like Thermostats.  The thermostat is a device that controls the environment.  It can change the conditions.  Instead of being hot or cold, it changes the temperature to the desired comfort level.  It does not rely on the conditions, it makes new conditions.  People that are like thermostats do the same thing.  They create conditions for success.  They are not happy just going with the flow.  They lead themselves and others to a desired outcome.  They are rarely victims as they have the ability to change the conditions or adapt and use the conditions in their favor.
I was telling the Scouts that when I was a kid, I was small.  I was never a big jock.  I played sports but never really had the skill or body type to be real good at it.  But I tried.  My coach gave me a chance because I set the conditions to get on the field and play.  I worked hard.  I was in the chess club and sang in the choir also.  I was never bullied.  I never let myself become bullied.  Now, that is not to say that others did not try to bully me, I just would not allow it to happen to me.  I stood up for myself and never gave the bully the satisfaction of making me a victim.  When I went in the Army, again, I was small and light.  Everyone around me told me I could not do this or that.  I set the conditions to do what I wanted.  I became an Airborne Ranger to prove everyone wrong.  I got strong, smart, and tough and made the conditions around me work in my favor.  I did not allow the temperature dictate my comfort, I changed the temperature.
Every day I see people who fall into these categories.  I wonder what makes one pick one way or the other.  What I really can not understand is why anyone chooses being a Thermometer.   Just allowing everything around them to have control of their outcome.
As Scouts we need to be thermostats.  We need to set conditions for success.  In turn we can help those around us become successful.  We can set conditions to make the Scout Oath and Law a part of our daily lives.  We can choose to set the conditions to make our life worth living.
Think about it.. which are you?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, teamwork, training | 5 Comments

‘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

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

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

Zapping the Fun out of it

wallWe all get to a point when we hit the wall, reach the point of diminishing return, stop having fun.  Teen age boys seem to hit that point way before adults and that my friends seems to be normal.  So know what we know, how do we deliver that promise without loosing our cool, making Scouting painful, and zapping the fun out of it.
I have been giving this subject a lot of thought lately and it pretty much came to a head for me the other night at our Troop meeting when I had a little chat with a Scout and his Dad.  This Scout is a good kid, he is growing up and seeing where he can push and pull on the limits with his parents, school, etc… that to seems to be pretty normal, I mean, all kids test the waters.  They see were they can get away with things and what they will be allowed to do and not do.  But that is not really here nor there in the conversation other than to say, this young man is testing where he can and Scouting is becoming a push and pull point between his Dad and himself.
I remember when this young man entered our Troop, he was gung ho about Scouting and dove right in.  He quickly worked his way through rank and never missed a good Scouting opportunity.  Went to the National Jamboree and Philmont and has by and large been a good Scout.  But now he has a driver’s licence, a girl friend, and Scouting is not cool among the crowd he is hanging with at School.  Again, normal… right?
Like I said, this all has come to a head this week, the discussion about how we maintain a good balance for our Scouts without compromising the program.  How do we keep older Scouts engaged and how do we keep it fun and adventurous for them while we compete with the rest of their worlds?  How is that we keep them from reaching that point of diminishing return and get them to continue to make a contribution to the Troop?  How do we assist them in staying active as a member and leader in the troop?
Well, I may not have the answers, but I am willing to try to at least offer solutions.
I am, as you know, a big believer in the Patrol method.  I think that the Patrols are a big piece of the puzzle here.  Allowing the Scouts to maintain the Patrols of guys that they want to be with, share common interests and likes and dislikes.  Maybe if they stay together, they will rally around each other.  To much moving around and the Scouts start to lose interest in going through the stages of team development and maintaining that high performance attitude.
So let them pick and keep their Patrols and Patrol mates.  When they invite a friend, let that friend be in their Patrol.
Leadership is always an issue also.  We expect our older Scouts to be leaders.  And I agree, but to what end?  When they start to hit the wall, they are not affect leaders, they tend to go through the motions and develop bad attitudes.  If they don’t want to lead, don’t make them.  They will get their leadership time and I would much rather have a leader that wants to lead than one that is being forced.  Leadership comes in many forms and maybe just their example can be enough till they are ready to step back into the spot light of Troop leadership.
Attendance.  This one gets debated over and over again, and everyone has an opinion.  By the way, I am interested in yours.. leave a comment.  Here are just a few thoughts of mine regarding this issue.  I am not a big proponent of forcing Scouts to be there.  I want them to be there.  I also understand that life for these kids (and adults) is busy.  Sports, homework, vacations, friends, other clubs all pull at the Scouts and their families.  Don’t let Scouting be the thing that becomes the bad guy.  Make Scouting something they want to be at.  I have said it before, Scouting may not be for every boy and as their world pulls at them it provides an opportunity for choices to be made.  The more they understand the value of Scouting and the fun, the higher on the priority list it goes.  Attendance at meetings, outings, and other unit functions needs to be the choice of the Scout and the family.
But Jerry, how do you determine what “active” means?  Well, I always go back to what the Boy Scouts of America has determined as the standard.  Here is how the BSA defines “Active”:
A Scout will be considered “active” in his unit if he is;
Registered in his unit (registration fees are current)
Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons
Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (informed of unit activities through Scoutmaster conference or personal contact, etc.)
In communication with the unit leader on a quarterly basis.
(Units may not create their own definition of active; this is a national standard.)
So that’s it.  That is active. I may or may not agree with it, and I am sure that there are some of you that feel that this standard is a bit chinsy.. but it is what it is.  That is how the Boy Scouts of America define it and that is what we must comply with when determining the activity of our Scouts.  That is the standard.
And so that is what I use as my guide.  Now, during the Scoutmaster conference I make it a point to ask what the Scout is getting out of the program… typically, you get out of Scouting what you put into it.  So once a Scout gets to that point where Girls, Gas, and Goofing off start taking a priority and troop meetings start to take a back seat, what is he getting out of it.  Does he still camp with the Troop?  Does he show up for service projects or courts of honor?  That would make him active, right?  I think it may.  The Scout will let you know how he is doing in the program, but we all know that forcing the issue on a teen-aged young man will result in push back.  And then you are back at square one.  The fun will officially be zapped out of it.
So what now?
First, know your Scouts.  What they like, dislike, and what makes them want to be there.
Second, use the Patrol method.  Enough said about that.
Finally, be flexible.  It’s only Scouting.  There is much to be gained in our organization, but if you are not happy here, or not here at all, you won’t get anything out of it.
Don’t be a Troop dictator.  Be as Baden-Powell said in Aides to Scoutmastership.. “To get a hold on boys, you must be their friend”.
Build trust in them and let them set their course for adventures in Scouting.
Hope that made any sense…  Don’t zap the fun out of Scouting.
Thanks for hanging in there and reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting day!

 

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, Character, comments, Ideals, Jamboree, Journey to Excellence, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Skills, teamwork, Values | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Scouting for all?

Merit Badges or Fun?Allow me to play devils advocate here for a minute.  There has been quite a bit of discussion lately via email and in Scouting circles in which I find myself regarding Scouts in our programs.  One argument is that Scouting is for every young man, the converse is that Scouting is not for everyone.
Boys enter our program with certain expectations and needs.  Those Scouts have parents that also have certain expectations and wants.  What I have seen and heard lately is that some parents and Scouts are not getting what they thought they would out of Scouting.  I have been in discussions in which parents believe that their son is not having fun in the program.  The question that I ask is simply, is Scouting really for everyone?
I submit for the sake of discussion that maybe Scouting is not for every boy.  It may be that what Scouting offers is not what they want or need.  It may be that the boy is not ready for the adventures that Scouting offer and well-intentioned parents do not really understand what Scouting is all about.  It is also true that many Scout leaders do not know what Scouting is all about and therefore have promoted a program that misses the mark when it comes to achieving Scouting’s aims.  This has led to young boys joining troops that quickly disappoint or fail to deliver on the expectations they and their parents had on the join night.
Scouting at its core is about adventure and when a boy joins a unit that is full of adventure he may not be ready or willing to participate.  Now, some would argue that participation is really not something that is of real importance in Scouting, but it is through participating fully in the program that the Scout gets the most out of Scouting.  I had a mother say to me the other night that her son does not attend winter camp outs because he did not have a good experience during last years winter camping season.  Why?  Well, maybe he does not like camping in the winter.. I am ok with that.  But does that paint the whole program as a negative thing?  No, but maybe the Scout is not ready or willing.  Once a boy starts down the road of picking and choosing those activities that he does not wish to participate in he will find it easier to reduce the level of activity he does.  This is not true in all cases, remember that I am not suggesting anything here other that this is a question that we should ask.  Maybe Scouting is not for everyone.  Here is what I am saying…
Scouting is not for everyone.  Scouting should not change to meet the Scouts needs.  Scouting needs to stay the course on being an organization that has values, ideals, and adventure.  Scouting should not “dumb down” to allow for boys to have a club to join.  There are plenty of clubs out there that he can find a place in.  Now, before you all jump on me let me say this here and make it very clear that I am not talking at all about Scouts or I should say boys with disabilities.  This discussion has nothing… I repeat nothing to do with disabilities.  That is another discussion and I think that needs to be addressed another time.  I will say that there are ample opportunities for boys with disabilities to participate in Scouting and I encourage every young man who shows interest to try Scouting no matter the “ability”.  I will also say that no.. I do not consider ADD, ADHD, Autism, and a lack of focus a disability.  Not when it comes to Scouting and the Scouting program.  We prove over and over again that Scouts that have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD and Autism can participate in Scouting and high adventure activities.  My Troop is proof of this.  Moving on…
Scouting should not promote that everyone will be an Eagle Scout just because he joins and has a pulse.  Scouting should continue to push the Scout to discover his world and find his limits.. then push them outside of his comfort zone.  If Scouting decides to become the YMCA or Boys Club it will no longer deliver the promise.  It will just become another after school club and that is not Scouting.  That is not what Baden Powell, William Hillcourt, James E West, and the rest of the men that founded and established the direction for Scouting had in mind.  We can met Scouts where they are, but we can never get away from the intent of the Scouting movement.  We can not stray from the methods that lead us to achieving the aims and we can never allow Scouting to just be another club.
Not everyone wants what Scouting offers.  Numbers, while they drive much of what the professional Scouters track are not the program.  A great program that stays the course will bring in the numbers of boys that seek adventure, values, and ideals that are the hallmark of the Scouting program.  Numbers for the sake of numbers will be just that and we see this play out each year with amount of boys that leave our units.  They don’t want to play the game with a purpose and we should not make them.  A football player is not allowed to join a team and then make up the rules of the game or change the team uniform.  He joins and plays the game that has been established.  Not everyone can or wants to play football, not everyone can or wants to be a Scout.  I recently sat with a group of Scouts and asks a few simple questions.  The first I asked was if they thought Scouting was nerdy.  They all said that they did not think so, but their friends at School did.  I asked what they thought the ‘nerdy’ part of Scouting was.. aside from wearing the uniform.  I figured I would take away the obvious answer.  They all said that their friends really didn’t know what we do.  I asked them if they ever tell them what we do.  They all pretty much said, no.  They did not want to bring it up so they could talk about something else.  Then I asked why not?  Why not tell their friends that we rock climb at Smith Rock, that we snowshoe and build snow caves.  That we have hiked the Oregon Coast trail, shoot shotguns and paddle the Deschutes river.  That we backpack miles of the PCT and go caving in some cool volcanic caves.  That we spent a week hiking in the Canyon country of New Mexico and that we have gone across the country to tour our Nations Capital and camp with 70,000 other Scouts.  I asked why all of that sounds ‘nerdy’.  They couldn’t tell me.  But these are the guys that want to do all of that.  These are Scouts and they want to be Scouts.  Their friends could not nor would they be willing to do all of that, even given the chance.  One of the Scouts spoke up and said that his friends thought Scouting was all about doing good deeds and being in Flag ceremonies.  His friend said he didn’t want to be in a club that did crafts and sang songs.  So I asked this young man what he told his friend.  He had a great answer, he told me that he said to his friend that “yeah, we sing songs, but it’s out in the middle of the woods at our campfire at the end of a day that was full of fun”.  But then again, that’s a kid that wants what Scouting has to offer.
Ok so what’s the point here.  The point is simply this.  We beat ourselves up to make sure that every boy joins Scouting.  Why?  If they join great, but if they quit, did we fail?  Did Scouting fail?  No.. they just did not fit in our program.  I have seen many Scouts come and go from our Troop and I can honestly say that the ones that left did not want to be there.  It was nothing we did to chase them away, they just did not want to be in Scouts.
I have said it many times, I would rather have a Troop of 10 motivated boys that want to be there than have a Troop with 50 that don’t.
Am I not supporting Scouting by saying this?   Nope I am delivering the promise of Scouting to those that want it.
Once again, I am a fan of the writing of William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt.  I have a copy of something he wrote way back when regarding the 10 Essentials of Scoutmastership.  It goes like this.

A belief in boys that will make you want to invest yourself and your time on their behalf.
A zeal focused upon one point-the boy’s happiness through his formative years- “A happy boy is a good boy, a good boy is a good citizen.
An immense faith in Scouting as the program that will best serve to mould our youth into fine men.
A realization that to the boys Scouting is a game – to you, a game with a purpose:  Character, building citizenship training and physical fitness.
A knowledge that to your boys you are Scouting.  “What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say”.
A steadfastness of purpose to carry out a planned program with energy and perseverance, patience and good humor.
A willingness to submerge yourself and make boy leaders lead and grow through and effective application of the Patrol Method.
A desire to advance in Scoutmastership by making use of training offered and material available on the subject.
A readiness to work hand in hand with home, church, sponsored institution, school, Local Council, National Council for the good of the individual boy and the community as a whole.
A love of the outdoors in all its phases and a vision of the hand that created it.

With an effective program that offers the “want to” so a boy joins, stays, and grows in Scouting we can see that Scouting is a great program.  But that is not for everyone.  If you as a Scouter can honestly read the 10 essentials of Scoutmastership and apply it to your unit you will create that environment.  If you do not feel that you can do that, well then you prove the argument, that nope, Scouting is not for everyone, to include adults.
Before I get lots of hate mail… I am playing devils advocate here, but the point for me is taken well.  I do not think that everyone needs to be in Scouting.  I think those boys that want to be in should and once in we will do everything in our power to deliver to them the very best program.
Now, I do want to hear what you think.  Please leave your comments, I would not ask if I didn’t want to know.
Thank you all for all you do in Scouting!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

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