Posts Tagged With: giving

‘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

Give to Get?

When I was a young boy, my family instilled in me the value of being helpful.  By my parents example they showed us how to be of service to our community, to our church, and to our neighbors.  They were active in social functions that typically came with a cause.  My Dad is a pretty good handy man and would often drag me to helping those that needed cabinets fixed or other repairs.  We spent the better part of the spring of 1979 working in a Monastery doing odds and ends and the pay was great.  Onion Soup. 
I never once heard my Dad complain or ask for compensation for anything he ever did.  It was just a part of the deal.  Even to this day my parents are advocates for helping other people at all times.
And so as I grew up this attitude of service has stayed with me.  In church they always ask of people to give their time, talents, and treasure.  I always jokes that my treasure is limited but my time is free.. oh.. and limited talent too.
And so it is in Scouting.  Saturday at our Program and Training conference I sat in and listened to a discussion about Friends of Scouting.   The presenter asked the question why do we or why do we not give to FOS?   A few answers went around the room.  “To attain Presidential status and get free camping”, “To get a patch”, ‘To get the free advancement patches for our unit” were just a few.  The common theme.. To Get.
Most people Give to Get.  And that is the wrong approach when giving.  We give for the program.  We give so that our Council can maintain its outreach programs, maintain the camps we enjoy, and provide program for those that maybe would otherwise be left out.  We should not give because we get something in return, we give because we can.
Back in 2008 I had the good fortune to give to the Council’s endowment through the James E. West Fellowship.  Many Scouters half-joking could not resist to tease that I bought a knot.  It was and is not about the knot.  After thoughtful discussion with my wife, we decided that we could afford in our budget to give the $1000 over the year to help our Scouting programs.  Knowing where the money goes was important to me and knowing that all of it would be used for bettering Scouting programs in our Council was the answer I needed.  So we gave.  Yes, we got a knot, but that knot to me is a demonstration, just like my parents showing me how to give and be of service, people who know and understand what the James E. West Fellowship is see that I am a servant leader.  I wear it to be an example of giving.  I put my money where my mouth is.
Many families take advantage of all that Scouting has to offer.  We teach that “A Scout is Thrifty” and he pay’s his own way.  But many families make excuses that the economy is bad, or we can’t afford this or that.  I understand that times are tough, but times get tougher when we make bad choices.  This may offend, but tough times are tougher when we make a choice to be lazy, wait for hand outs, or not accept our part in whatever it is that you value.  Time and time again I hear Scout parents talk about how expensive Scouting can be.  How much did you pay for those cigarettes?  The average price of a pack of smokes today is $4 to $6.  For the $60 spent on a carton of cigarettes you could send your kid to camp in a month.  But who am I to tell you how to spend you money?  The fact is, smokers value it over other things.  No one needs to smoke, they make a choice to smoke.  But for the money they literally burn, they could help their son have a great Scouting experience.  Now, I’m picking on smokers here, why?  Because they are the easy targets.  You can see the dollars physically being burned with them and I can’t help but pick that out when they say they can’t afford Scouting.  Truth be told, It pisses me off when they make excuses about money then light up a cigarette.  I wonder about priorities and that obviously they are being selfish.  That goes for lots of things.  How many times do you eat out a week.  I know for my family that’s at least a $40 to $50 trip.  So you limit that activity and use the money for something better.  I’m not suggesting that a night out is not called for here and there… but isn’t Scouting worth it?
Dollar for dollar you will not find a better value than Scouting.  If you believe that, and make an effort to support that, than doing what it takes to keep it going should be a priority of yours.  If not, then keep letting others do it for you…and the beauty is that you can expect everything that is offered.
I give, and expect nothing.
I love the Scouting movement and think that there is no better place for our young people to learn and practice what they learn to be productive members of our Country.  Learning skills, teaching, practicing leadership, developing a sense of citizenship, and becoming men and women that value Character and understand that it certainly does matter.
I do this without pay or the expectation of compensation.  My reward comes in seeing these kids grow up. 
The fact of the matter is that to do this it costs and who better to provide than people who know and understand the value of the program?
But why expect something in return?  Is that the spirit of giving?  I have heard it said that “The only thing that take with you is what you leave behind”.  I saw a great example of this in August down at the Philmont Scout Ranch.  Now I do not think that I will ever be a millionaire, and I don’t think that I will ever be donating major tracks of land to the Boy Scouts of America.  But what I do know is that my time is free, my talents are available, and my treasure, well I give what I can.  And I think that is all one can ask for.  With no strings attached, and nothing expected in return.. We give.
I am once again on the Wood Badge staff, and once again I give of time and talent, and I am sure some of the treasury will be spent.  This is something that between my wife and I we have decided is good.  It is good for us, it is good for those that come to the course, and it is good for Scouting.  We both understand that the value of Scouting is greater than any dollar amount.  The program is greater than any one leader.  Scouting is life changing and worth every penny, every hour, and everyone’s talent.
Give.  Not to Get, but because it is part of being a servant leader.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Leadership, Philmont, Scouting, Service, Values | Tags: | 3 Comments

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