Author: Scoutmaster Jerry

Little to Big

pennantDo a Good Turn Daily.. That is the Slogan of Scouting.  It is a challenge to each of us to look for some way to be of service.  The slogan asks us to seek opportunities every day to do something… anything that will ultimately make a difference.
It is my belief that when we look at this challenge we feel it is to large.  It is a lofty goal to actually make a difference in this world.
What we need to do is think little.  Little things matter.
When we teach leadership in our Troop one of our principles is to “Focus on the Little Things.”  That principle is all about details and those things that add up to big things.  Little things like keeping your gloves out of the snow.  Just a little thing, but the big thing is cold hands, wet gear, and maybe frost bite.  Another example is ensuring that your tent is pitched properly.  Making sure your guy lines are taught and pulled in line.  Not a big deal, until it rains and your rain fly does not function properly.  Just a little thing that makes a big difference.
And so it is with the Good Turn.  Little things make a big difference.  Holding open a door or carrying a bag.  Little things that make a big difference for the person you helped.
A smile could change someones attitude or outlook on the day.
I think we get wrapped up in service for service sake and not for the difference we make.
Just think.. there are about two million Scouts in America.  They represent about 103 thousand units.  Those units represent Schools, Churches, Communities.   So if 2 million Scouts did their Good Turn each day, just something small, we could change our world.  That does not event take into consideration the Adult Volunteers that teach, coach, train, and mentor those 2 million Scouts.  Add about 1.2 million to that number.  3 million people doing a small act of service every day.  When we talk about little to big.. we can see that we make a big difference when and where it really matters.
In 2015 the Boy Scouts of America logged 1.53 million service hours.  Those were hours of service dedicated to building things, collecting food, and working for our communities.  That seems like a big number but at the end of the day we may not see the big impact.  A lot of our service is dedicated to our chartering partners and people directly impacted in Scouting.  That is great and I certainly would not want to take one minute of those hours away.. they make a difference.  But in snap shots.
Little to Big.. each of us.. every day.  Now that would leave a mark that could be seen from outer space.
Think little to big.  Do your Good Turn every day!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Scouting for…

HappinessYesterday was our annual Scouting for Food drive.  Scouts from all over our Council hit the neighborhoods with enthusiasm and the knowledge that for two hours of service they will help feed many people in our community that are in need.
Now, we won’t debate here why they are in need, the organizations that profit from their need at times, or social injustice.. we are talking about Scouts doing a good turn.
Our Troop not only collects food from our neighbors, but also work the better part of the day at the St. Vincent dePaul Food Pantry collecting, sorting, and boxing food to be distributed over the course of the next few weeks.
As Packs, Troops, and Crews collect the food items, they bring it to the Church to be weighed, sorted, and given.  So over the morning I get an opportunity to talk with Scouts and Scouters and thank them for what they are doing to make our community just a tad bit better.
A group of Scouts came in and started unloading their pick up trucks full of food.  The Scoutmaster of the Troop and I exchanged greetings and he remarked about how rude some people are.. kind of blowing off the comment I said, yeah you see that everywhere now a days.. he said no.. today when they were collecting food in their neighborhood a lot of people went out of their way to be rude when a simple, no thank you or sorry we are not donating would do.
He even went on to say that many of his Scouts were yelled at for “Begging” for food.  A real sad story.
I let that soak in a bit and then let it go.
An hour later, a group of Scouts and I were standing outside waiting for more units to bring in food items.  A man walking by stopped and crossed the street.  I smiled and said hello.  He asked what we were doing.  I told him today is our annual Scouting for Food campaign and we were collecting food for the pantry.  He asked why the Scouts were doing it.  I replied that this is a good opportunity for the Scouts to do their good deed for the day and also a way of giving back to our community.  It was then that the discussion went South and in a hurry.  The man said that “these boys should not be our here begging for food”.. I thought back to the conversation I had with my friend the Scoutmaster.  I wonder if this is the same guy?
I smiled and assured him that we were not begging.. just simply helping collect food for the St. Vincent dePaul pantry.
He seemed to be getting very upset.  I asked him if there was something I could do for him, offered him a cup of coffee and a place to get out of the cold.  He did not want any coffee and asked again why were out here.  I again explained the Scouting for Food campaign and thought we were through.. and then he said it.. “It is a shame what you are doing to these boys”  Excuse me I asked.  “Brainwashing them into a bunch of robots” What?  Are you familiar with Scouting I asked?  He said sure.. I know all about how you are grooming these young kids to go into the military.  I said to him that while I know of Scouts that do enter the military, Scouting is not a military organization nor does it “Feed” the military with new recruits.  “Then why the uniforms, badges, and saluting?”
Scouting is like a team I tried to explain, we wear a uniform just like a sports team wears a uniform, it gives us a sense of team and pride in belonging together.  It is a great equalizer, we are all the same, no matter where we come from, what economic status, religion, or race.  We are all just Scouts.  The badges and saluting, well, they are to show achievement, teaching the Scouts that when you work hard you get rewarded.  So far as saluting, we only Salute our Country’s flag.  That is just our way of showing respect to the country that we live in.
He kept on.. well you are a “Ultra Right wing radical group”.. At that I had to laugh.  I told him that I was not exactly sure what he meant by that.. he said we were all radicals and want war.  At that it was time to have a little fun.
Sir, you don’t know a lot about Scouting do you?  I know plenty he said.. You said we all want war.. I suppose you are right.. we wage war against poverty, we want to kill hunger, we want to remove intolerance, we fight against our Scouts using drugs and battle against lack of character.  In 1918 after World War 1, Baden Powell moved Scouting’s goal to be a movement for peace… and that is what it has been for over 100 years.  Scouts from all over the world fight for peace in their own way every day.
Do we seem to be very conservative, sure.. it can be said that we have conservative values, you know all those terrible things like being loyal and friendly, Trustworthy and kind, Brave and clean, Helpful and Courteous.  We value hard work and earning our way in the world.  We teach our Scouts how to be people with Character, good Citizens, and young people that are fit.
No Sir, we do not brainwash or indoctrinate our youngsters into the military or force them to vote republican when they grow up.  We teach them to be good people that are self reliant, we do not want them to be a burden, rather people that take away the burden of their neighbor.
And that is why we are here today.. to help our community and those that are in need.
He made some weird sound, snorted, and turned to walk away.  I had to get one last shot in.  I said to him that I hope he has a better view of Scouts and Scouting now and that he is always welcome to come pay us a visit.  I said “Sir, we are just trying to do our part to make things better”.  He smiled and walked away.
Maybe Scouting for food was different this year.  Giving was down and the mood was strange, it has been a long weird year.  I hope that my exchange with that man yesterday was helpful.  He was Scouting for Food.. the food that is knowledge.  I am sure he was looking for an argument, but found Scouting and a group of young men that showed him at our finest. He found Scouts and a Scouter that have passion for what our organization does and believes.
After Scouting for Food, we went to a Cross over Ceremony for Webelos Scouts moving to Boy Scout Troops.  Our Troop received one of the four that crossed.  As I watched our ceremonies team tell the story of the Scout Oath and Law and the trail that these new young men were stepping off on.. I reflected on my conversation of that morning.  Smiled and knew that we did well today.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Horse and Cart

horsecartYou can look at a good Scout Troop like a horse and cart.  The horse has to be strong and steadfast.  The horse has to be trained so as not to buck and run when it’s not supposed to.  The horse works as a part of a team and each pulls it’s share of the weight so the load of the cart can be pulled over the long haul.
The horse represents your adult volunteers.  They need to be trained to understand the Scouting program and what their role is in it.  The adult volunteer needs to appreciate the aims of Scouting and move the unit in the right direction.  Adult volunteers need to be steadfast and keep in mind that the unit is bigger than one person.  They need to know that what they do today will have a lasting impact on the units future.
The cart is the units program.  It can be as full as you want or as empty, but the cart is always moving behind the horse.  The program of the unit is the reason for the horse to be there.  It is the “Why” of Scouting.  The Aims, the Methods, and the thing that keeps the boys coming back for more.  The cart can be loaded heavy as long as it has good horses to pull it.
And what drives the horse and cart?  The youth.  Youth leadership makes the horse and cart go.  It holds on to the reigns and steers the team.  It is their cart.  They get to decide how much or how little gets put in.  They are taught to lead the horse team and see the benefits of what is in the cart.  A good horse, cart, and driver make for a good Scout Troop.  When the elements work together, are trained, and understand how it all works together there is no where the unit can’t go.  There is nothing it can not do.
The cart can not be put before the horse, the horse can not function without the driver, and the driver has not purpose without the horse and cart.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Ask you shall receive…

sm_conf-2Guided Discovery is the process of asking questions to achieve a learning objective.  The Senior Patrol Leader comes to you and says that Tommy Tenderfoot has a leaking tent.  You being a good Scoutmaster immediately takes action and checks out the tent.  Finding the leak you move the gear and find an extra tarp and place it over the tent. problem solved.  Nothing learned.
The learning objective has been left for another rainy day.
On the other hand when the Senior Patrol leader informs you of Tommy Tenderfoots dilemma the first thing to think is ask questions.  This is not to prolong the agony or make the Scout feel bad, it is all about teaching and coaching and Guided Discovery.
Why do you think the tent is leaking?  Where is it leaking?  How do you think it can be fixed?  Is Tommy going to be ok?  What can you do to make the situation better?
Again, not to remove responsibility of the adult leadership, but teaching leadership and responsibility to the youth leaders.  Leading questions allow the Scouts to find solutions and realize that they do have the answers.. they just need to find them.
Of course if there is an emergency, you can do the question session as a reflection after the situation is resolved.  But 9 times out of 10, a rain soaked tent is not an emergency and is, like most of the situations our Scouts find themselves in, a great opportunity to discover and achieve some learning objectives.
Learning objectives are important in the Guided Discovery process.  Like vision, if you have no objectives then you are wandering through the activity.  In this game with a purpose, every activity or event should have some opportunity to learn or develop.  Express the learning objective within the Patrol Leaders Council so that they are aware of what it is that they are trying to accomplish.  This will help the youth leader when the Leading questions start coming at them.  It should get them in the mode of finding solutions and not looking for blame or excuses.
This can be a long and frustrating process.  Play it all the way through.  The reward will come in the end when you ask and then receive a look of satisfaction that the Scout has learned.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Money money Money…. Money

mbpersmanI received a question regarding raising money for a unit.. in light of a recent, or recent rash of unit trailers, canoes, and equipment being stolen.  It seems that we are always hearing of a Scout Troop here and there having to deal with theft.  The particular question was regarding Crowd Funding campaigns and if they are allowed in Scouting.
In doing a bit of looking there are issues that I have with Crowd funding in Scouting.. you can try it.. as long as they follow the rules.  It is a bit of a sticky situation in that raising money as a Scout unit has specific guidelines that need to be followed.
The Unit Money Earning Application should be the units guide.
I would suggest that as long as the unit follows the rules and is very specific about the need for the money they need, they should submit the application and follow up with their local Council.
Here are some of the specifics I am talking about.
1.  The unit money earning application asks questions.  First of which “Do you really need a fund-raising project?”  Is there a specific need that the Scouts can not pay their own way for?  In the case of a unit trailer or stolen canoes the unit should examine how they can replace them before they start asking for money.  Donation of a trailer or canoes perhaps?
Did the unit purchase the trailer the first time?  Was the trailer insured and will be replaced. Replacement due to theft should not be an opportunity for upgrade.
There should be a real need for raising money based on your unit’s program. Units should not engage in money-earning projects merely because someone has offered an attractive plan. Remember that individual youth members are expected to earn their own way. The need should be beyond normal budget items covered by dues.
2.  The second question is about contracts, “If any contracts are to be signed, will they be signed by an individual, without reference to the Boy Scouts of America and without binding the local council, the Boy Scouts of America, or the chartered organization?”
Earning money for big ticket items such as a trailer or canoes really needs to be looked at closely and discussed with the Charter Partner. Contrary to popular belief you can not represent the Boy Scouts of America when it comes to doing business.  You should represent the organization well by your actions guided by the Oath and Law.  A Scout is Thrifty and the Scout should pay his own way.  A Scout earning his way to go to summer camp represents himself as he rakes leaves or mows lawns.  It is not for the benefit of Scouting, rather the learning and development of the Scout.  When dealing with contracts the local council should be involved.  As the application states, the individual is personally responsible for business contracts.  Therefore, I believe that the “Go Fund Me” contract would be for the individual and not the unit as the individual contract may not represent Scouting or the unit.
3.  The last question that I will discuss is where I really have pause when talking about Crowd funding type campaigns.  Directly from the Unit Money Earning Application:” Will the fund-raising project avoid soliciting  money or gifts?
The BSA Rules and Regulations state, “Youth members shall not be permitted to serve as
solicitors of money for their chartered organizations, for the local council, or in support of other organizations. Adult and youth members shall not be permitted to serve as solicitors of money in support of personal or unit participation in local, national, or international events.” For example: Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts and leaders should not identify themselves as Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts or as a troop/pack participate in The Salvation Army’s Christmas Bell Ringing program. This would be raising money for another organization. At no time  are units permitted to solicit contributions for unit programs.
That last line is an important part of the application to consider.  Is the trailer or canoes part of the unit program?  If so the unit should replace in kind using other methods of fund raising.  A method that actually gives the members of the unit buy in to the process.  Scouts should pay their way and support their unit through dues.  A crowd funding program does not require the Scout to earn the funds that support his growth in Scouting.  There are no real free Crowd funding resources.  “Go Fund Me” keeps 7.9% of the funds earned.. that is something to look at when answering this question about soliciting.  Like Bell ringing for the Salvation Army, Scouts would be raising money for Go Fund Me and not just Scouting (ie: FOS or Popcorn sales).
Now before I get hate mail from those of you that support Crowd Funding campaigns, please know that I do not have a problem with them.  In fact I have supported campaigns in the past.  We are talking about Scouting and how the rules govern how we can raise money for our units.
1.  Use the application.
2.  Follow the rules.
3.  Make sure that it supports the Scout and his ability to learn, grow, and achieve the aims of Scouting.
It is terrible that we have to have the discussion when it comes to theft.  That is another story and one that I do not have solutions for.  Crowd funding however is a method of getting money with nothing in return.  I do not see where the Scout truly benefits as a person when he, through the unit, is just given money.
As much as a child earns an allowance, the Scout needs to earn his share of unit program.
Let me know what you think about this subject.  I know that it can be a touchy one.
Leave a comment and discuss where you are in Crowd funding.
Also grab a copy of the Unit Money Earning Application here.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Thankful

ThanksgivingIt’s that time again to gather with friends and family and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  The one day a year that we take time and count our blessings.  We have much to be thankful for.  As I shared with the Scouts of our Troop on Monday night, no matter how bad we have it we still live in the greatest country of all.  It is still a land of opportunity and dreams.  It is the reason we are passionate about finding our vision.
This year I count my blessings and they are many.  I am thankful for my health, my family, and the Scouts that keep me learning, excited about our future, and keeping me young.
I am blessed to have the very best woman to share my life with.
I am blessed to have three amazing kids.. young adults, starting to make their way and find and follow their dreams.
I am blessed to have parents that are still here and are good models for lasting love and dedication to marriage.
I am thankful that I have things in my life that make life fun.  Friendships that are lasting.  The ability to love and be loved.
So this Thanksgiving.. Be blessed.  Count the blessings in your life.  For just one day, start a habit of being Thankful.
I wish for you on Thanksgiving many blessings and happiness.

For food, for raiment
For life, for opportunity
For friendship and fellowship
We thank thee, O Lord

Have a Great Thanksgiving! 

Boy Led or Lord of the Flies?

lord-flies-william-golding-paperback-cover-artI often have discussions with Scoutmasters about what constitutes a “Boy Led Troop”.   There seems to be a misunderstanding as to what that means and it is executed in different ways depending on the unit.  But there is a right way to have youth lead and a wrong way.  Finding balance and understanding of the roles of the Adults and Youth in the Troop becomes the difference between Boy Led and Lord of the Flies.
Youth leadership is the method that we use to teach and provide opportunities for the Scouts to learn, develop, and practice leadership.  It is an opportunity to learn styles of leadership and challenge personal growth, communication skills, and working as a member of a high performance team.  Leadership in a Scout troop is shared.  Shared between other Scouts and with adults.  They share experiences, learning, and responsibility.
A Boy Scout Troop is Boy (or Scout) led but it is Adult run.  We do not expect our Scouts to administer the Troop, maintain the checking account, resource seat belts, or make camp reservations.  All items that certainly would fall under most leadership descriptions.  We also do not allow the Scouts to discipline one another, that to would be a leadership role in most organizations.
We use a technique called Guided Discovery when teaching leadership and expectations with our Scouts.  This keeps them from becoming tribal.  It removes the conflict between Ralph and Jack (the principle characters in Lord of the Flies).  It is done by asking leading questions and offering the Scouts the chance to find solutions in their leadership challenges.
Guided Discovery is all about coaching the youth to find success.  Not doing it for them, but keeping them within the limits.  It allows for the Scouts to set boundaries and learn from mistakes in a safe environment.
A few weeks ago I stood in the back of the meeting hall with some parents.  Mom and Dad were concerned that our Troop did not allow the boys to do “Everything”.  Their idea of Boy leadership was that adults monitored but did not get to involved with the operation of the Troop.  They wondered why the Assistant Scoutmasters were working with the Scouts on advancement.  One of the Assistant Scoutmasters was signing off a Scouts handbook.  Dad asked why the Scouts were not doing the signing.  I suggested that when the ASM signs the book he can take that opportunity to get to know the Scout, understand the Scouts knowledge of the skills, and keep his (the ASM) finger on the pulse of the unit.  This allows the Adult leadership the opportunity to know what is going on and understand how the Scouts are doing in the their Scouting experience.
We teach the Scouts through Guided Discover what leadership is and how to lead.  We allow them to ask questions and test their leadership skills.  If they feel that they are totally left to their own devices, they will feel overwhelmed and not learn.  Scouting is a safe place to practice these valuable life skills.  It is an environment where the leader gets mutual support from both the adults and his Troop mates.  If you recall in the book “Lord of the Flies” the conflict between Jack, Simon, and Ralph and the division between the biguns and littluns came when they lost the ability to resolve simple issues.  When and were to hunt, building shelter, and protection the tribe from the beast.  Simon rises as a leader bound to protect the littluns from the biguns.  Piggy becomes an outcast and the butt of pranks and laughter from all of the boys.  They did not understand the concept of leading to serve and without adults on the island to assist in decision making and conflict resolution they quickly turn on one another.  Without learning from mistakes and being led in reflection the boys turn on each other develop a lack of trust and paranoia.  Their experiment in civility is crushed.
This can easily become analogous in the life of a Troop without guided discovery and the ability for Adults to step in and drive the learning.  It does not mean that the adults do everything for the Scouts, but it does mean that the development of young leaders is conducted in a meaningful and focused way.
100% youth led does not allow for learning.  They just don’t know what they don’t know.
The argument of “Well, have the older boys be the guide” is valid.  But like the Lord of the Flies, the older boys will also have their agenda and reasons for wanting to lead.  I am not suggesting that we allow agenda driven leadership, that is where guided discovery comes in.  When we can direct the learning and keep it all focused on achieving the goals of Scouting we can eliminate the Lord of the Flies.
So where is your unit?  Boy Led or somewhere on the island?  Guided discovery can fix that.  Learning, developing, and growing as individuals and a unit is dependent on the shared leadership of youth and adults.
If you have not read Lord of the Flies recently, it is a good study on human nature and leadership among youth.  It is a great study on what we can become.  Worth the read.
Check out Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Have a Great Scouting Day!