“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”- John F. Kennedy
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
“The most worth-while thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.” ― Robert Baden-Powell
Service. Given with no expectation of something in return is how a Scout must live to hold up his end of the promise he makes in the Scout Oath and Law. But the world we live in today dictates that something is gained when something is given. It is how things work. Except when we are talking about true leadership which of course is a dedicated life of service.
We see in the quotes above a call to service. John F. Kennedy in his famous “ask not” inaugural speech instructed America and the World to be of service to one another. To forgo expectation of getting, but rather to give. It is when we collectively give and expect nothing in return that we truly serve.
Martin Luther King Jr. quoted from the Bible sharing the story of the Good Samaritan. A perfect example of giving, of serving our fellow man, not just those that we like or we find in our circles.
And finally, our founder Baden Powell and his reminder that happiness comes from serving other. These are not new concepts nor are they ground breaking discoveries. They are simple truths that in our self absorbed world we in Scouting need to take back and show that service is not a thing of the past.
I saw on TV the other night a Coca Cola commercial. A man buys a Coke ™ and sees a girl that could use it more than her. She accepts the Coke and immediately sees someone else that needs it, so in turn gives it.. and so on until a meteor strikes the stand where the Coke was originally purchased. The Coke is handed to the man working the stand. A full circle of “paying forward”. It is a nice message, but reality being what it is, I would venture to guess that Coke would never have made it around the circle.
Having discussions with our Scouts about service reinforces to me that we have a ways to go when it comes to driving home this point of service selflessly.
The discussions about service always result in “what do I get out of it”. I get something signed in my book for rank. I get service hours applied to this or that. I get.. I get.. I get.
Talking with a recent Scout about the completion of his Eagle Project I reminded him that it did not matter what the project was.. it is not about the project it is about leadership and being a servant leader. The project is the vehicle that allows for the leadership to be demonstrated. “Yeah but..” the Scout started.. “I get credit for high School graduations community service points for this project”. Yes you do, what then again, what is the point. To serve or to get.
It has become a running joke that Scouts help old ladies across the street. Values of days gone by when Scouts sought out those opportunities to be helpful have been replaced by opportunities to get something in return. I will help that person when I get something whether that is credit, recognition, or something tangible like money, a free dinner, or yes even money.
In ancient times when a Roman Soldier was to become part of the Principales or a Centurion, he would have to stand watch all night long. This was to demonstrate to his men that he was not beyond the duties of a soldier. It also put his men’s welfare above his own allowing them to sleep while he kept watch. As he kept watch those leaders above him would also demonstrate the model of selfless leadership (service) as they paid him visits throughout the night bringing him small tokens, food, drink, and other items that would make his watch a little more comfortable. These acts of service modeled the expectation of this new leader. He would see what it would take to be a leader in the Cohort. Nothing was expected by the new leader, he was giving of himself and being trained in servant leadership. This lead from the front attitude shaped the Roman Legions and made them strong.
We can learn a lot about our leadership and our service from these examples. From the Roman Legions to John F.Kennedy we are called to serve. We are called to bring happiness to others through our Service.
We make a promise to help other people at all times. We should try to keep that promise.
Oh, I know its hard. But think about that Coke ™ commercial. If we all past along an attitude of service we can help the world… or at least our communities become better places to live.
You don’t have to be a Hero or wear a badge, you need only remember that we do make a promise to be helpful and that as Baden Powell said, “The main question of life is not “what can I get?” but “what can I give?”
Something to think about when you have that next discussion about service with your Scouts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!