It is often said that “Every Scout deserves a Trained Leader”… well.. sure.. Every Scout certainly deserves a trained leader, but do you really think that the Scout cares?
The saying should say, “Every Parent deserves a Trained Leader”. Right? After all, the training is more for the parents right?
The Scout does not care that you know the rules of the safety sandwich. The Scout does not care that you have been to wilderness first aid. The Scout does not care that you are climb instructor certified or that you have completed Youth Protection.
Ahhh… But the parents do.
They come to a unit and want to know that as they drop off Tommy Tenderfoot on Friday night that the guy driving the car is insured, trained, and will bring back their son in the same condition that he climbed into the Suburban heading to the camp out in.
Parents care a lot about the training that the Scout leader has. I for one would not send my sons out with a Scout leader that was not trained. I would not let my son go out into the woods with a guy that got his training by watching Survivor man on TV once.
Nope. The parents deserve a trained leader. I would go further to insist that every leader that goes near a Scout is trained, and if I were King for the day.. any leader that did not get trained or refused to spend the time, energy and money to get trained would not be allowed to be a Scout leader.
Boy Jerry.. that’s harsh… Really? Like I said, I would not let my kid go off for the weekend with a guy I don’t trust.
Training builds that trust. At least it opens the door to trusting the leader.
I have talked a lot on this blog about leadership. It goes not just for our youth leaders, but the adults too.
Think back to the 4 “C”s I discussed.
Don’t you want your adult leaders to be Competent and have Courage? Compassionate and Candor?
Those are all things that come with training.
Our Troop goes climbing every year. We have 8 climbing instructors in the unit. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.
We have multiple Wilderness First Aid certified leaders and First responders. Why? Because we go looking for adventure and we are not near a parking lot. It’s the right thing to do.
We go winter camping at least 3 times a year. We have cold weather instructors and skilled leaders that know winter camping skills and stay up on gear and techniques. Why? Because we will never put a Scout in harm’s way.
The point here is that when a Scout crosses over into our Troop the parent knows that we care and are willing to do our very best for their son. They can rest assured that we are trained and will take care of their boy.
Every one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, the Committee Chair, and me are all Wood Badgers. Why is that important? We all believe in life long learning and are committed to being better. Wood Badge demonstrates to our Scouts and their parents that we are serious about training and taking care of their sons and more importantly, that we want to do Scouting right.
So every parent does deserve a trained leader. Get trained or get out. It’s that simple if I were King for the day.
On a side note. I have been doing this Scouting thing for some time now and have served at the District level also. Being the District Program Chairman and later the District Chairman, I had access to lots of reports that really don’t mean much. The one thing that did mean something to me was the amount of units that struggle in multiple areas. Membership, activities, etc.
The common thing that we saw in EVERY unit that struggles are UNTRAINED Adults. You do the math.
Get trained for your Scouts.. and your Parents.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
It is often said that “Every Scout deserves a Trained Leader”… well.. sure.. Every Scout certainly deserves a trained leader, but do you really think that the Scout cares?
Before I get into today’s post I want to thank every one for their interest in the review of Scoutbook.com. Unfortunately I was only given three free subscriptions and they went to the first three emails I received. But the response was overwhelming. 50 of you emailed for a shot at the subscription.
So the folks at Scoutbook.com have given me another offer… if you subscribe for a year of Scoutbook and put in THESCOUTMASTERMINUTE in the coupon code at check out you will get 10% off your subscription.
Thank you to Scoutbook.com and thank all of you for supporting me and them.
Now on with the regular scheduled blog post…
Baden Powell understood young men, he had a connection with the way they learned, developed and reacted to teaching styles and learning environments. In the following excerpt from the Lessons from the Varsity life by Lord Baden Powell of Gilwell he discusses the Scout law.
1. A SCOUT’S HONOUR IS TO BE TRUSTED.
2. A SCOUT IS LOYAL.
3. A SCOUT’s DUTY IS TO BE USEFUL.
4. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ALL.
5. A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS.
6. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ANIMALS.
7. A SCOUT OBEYS ORDERS.
8. A SCOUT SMILES AND WHISTLES UNDER ALL DIFFICULTIES.
9. A SCOUT IS THRIFTY.
10. A SCOUT IS CLEAN IN THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED.”
Scouting across the world adopted the law and modified it to meet the needs of the national programs in which they applied. But the rule of DO and not Don’t carried throughout. We learn through our Scout Law what we should Do and Be, not what we should not do or be. Unlike the 10 commandments that teach us what not to do and be, the Scout Law encourages a life of Service and ethical attitudes. It gives us a starting point from which we test our decisions and actions that follow.
I found it interesting that the other day I over heard a man talking about the “Say it out loud test”. This tested whether or not one should engage in something that may not be sound. The way it works is that before you do something, say it out loud. If it does not sound right in your head… don’t do it.
Baden Powell encouraged us to DO the right thing. He did not want to burden us with a list of DON’Ts… DO be Trustworthy, DO be Loyal, DO be Helpful, DO be Friendly, DO be Courteous, DO be Kind, DO be Obedient, DO be Cheerful, DO be Thrifty, DO be Brave, DO be Clean, and DO be Reverent. Putting this positive attitude in our rules to live by makes it easier. We all enjoy it when we are given opportunity and latitude. When I am told that I can do something, I feel a lot better than when someone tells me I can’t.y it out loud. For example, if you are going to rob a bank. Say it out loud. It just sounds wrong… then don’t do it.
Another example; “Hey lets all put a knife in the wall socket”… say it out loud… it does not even sound right, does it? Then don’t do it.
As Scouts and future leaders of America, we encourage you to BE, KNOW, and DO. You know what right looks like.. you have the power to DO it!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Mental toughness is a great leadership trait. It allows the leader to think clear and make good decisions. I recently ran into an article in Backpacker magazine that reinforced some of the leadership training that I learned early on in the Army and it applies real well in Scouting and out-door adventures.
Mental toughness is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced as a result the leader will be able to be a more effective leader.
First the leader needs to Set better Goals. Again, we turn to the SMART Goal method and make sure that our Goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. With those goals in mind as we prepare to lead a task or move a group from A to B we need to think about those contingency plans and risk management that go along with our goal. Clear goal setting is the map that leaders use to guide those they lead.
Second the leader must Monitor his self talk. Are your thoughts Purposeful, Productive, and giving yourself a chance for success. Remember that we talked about seeing success this week. Self talk needs to remain positive. It has been found that when the leader doubts himself or has a negative internal talk he will see those thoughts through. On the other hand a confident leader with a positive internal monologue will set his mind in motion for positive outcomes.
Third the leader needs to Control the Controllables. That is to say that you must wrap your arms around that which you can control and not worry about that which you can not. You will never be able to control the weather for example. You can plan for it, prepare for it, but you can not control it. You can control the skills and shape the conditions for your desired outcome. Stay focused on the things that you have control over. The number one thing that you control is your attitude and your ability. Having a positive attitude and the right skills are leadership traits that will give you more control over those that you lead. Do not misunderstand the use of control here. We are discussing the idea of control of situations, skills, and attitude. Not dictatorship style controlling of people.
And finally, the fourth thing to build mental toughness is Combat Catastrophic Thinking. This goes along with the self talk, but takes it a step further. Keep your mind from falling into the pit of worse case scenario thinking. Worrying about what can happen does not matter. Keeping it from happening using sound judgement and thinking about the risk and managing that risk is far more important than worrying about the worst cases.
I have seen leaders that get caught up in this trap and once they start with the “We will never make it” scenarios they adopt the idea that it is true. This attitude is contagious and will spread. This is critical when backpacking. The blame game starts to surface and one bad decision will lead to another.
Mental toughness is that attitude that “I am a leader and I will be successful”. It comes with confidence, practice, and when the leader realizes that the power of the mind is often greater than the power of the body.
The Scout Oath says to be mentally awake. Develop the mind to be mentally tough. We saw this at Philmont over and over again either in our crew or in other crews at the many camps we passed through. A Scout would give up on himself. He could go no further.. according to his mind. He could make it, but he was mentally weak. A 14 mile day on the trail is just 14 miles. You can do it when you set your mind to it. You can be the leader that inspires others to make it when you set your mind and attitude in the right direction. You can be the best cheerleader by putting one foot in front of the other and a smile on your face. No need to yell or cheer. Just encourage by your actions and mental toughness.
I once hiked with one of our newer Scouts. We had gone four and half miles and had four more to go to get into camp. He stopped on the trail and threw his pack to ground proclaiming that he would walk not one more step. I told him that it was fine with me and took my pack off and joined him on the ground. He was mentally finished. Video games had got the best of him and he did not want to finish.
I talked with him about our options. We could walk back to the cars almost five miles away, or we could push to camp four miles away, but either way we would have to hike out of there. The benefits of getting to camp were greater than going back to the car. Food, relaxing, and hanging out with his buddies versus going home without success, better known as being a failure. He looked around and saw that he was the only one not willing to move forward and the decision became easier for him to make. We got into camp and never had another issue with him.
To many people these days fear mental toughness. They think it is a trait of a bully or tough guy. It is a trait of leadership and one of being a man. We want to develop both leadership and manliness in our Scouts.
Something to think about in working with your leaders.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
One 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!
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!
First 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.
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.
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. I did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges. Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
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.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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!
Thermometer 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!
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!
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!