There are moments in your life where vision is realized, made clear, and action set in motion. We have lived moments that have greater meaning, cause us to be moved, and in the words that resonate through out the Order of the Arrow, we “Seek a Higher Vision”.
I have had a few of those moments in my life. While we can not separate our time spent in Scouting with our lives not wearing a tan shirt, I look at moments in my life that have truly moved me. Graduating from Ranger School, the day my wife said “I DO”, the birth of my children are all moments in my life that changed me.
September the 11th is the day of our generation in which we made a choice to do something. Whether that was serve our Country or recommiting to serve our community, it was a moment in time, much like the moments of my fathers generation remembering where they were when Kennedy was shot. Or my Grandfathers call to serve after Peril Harbor.
We have those moments in Scouting. If you have been to a Jamboree you have been in that moment where thousands of tan clad Scouts and Scouters sing, laugh, and celebrate. You have shared in the fellowship and have seen that Scouting is bigger than your Troop, District, and Council. These moments serve to shape you as a Scout. A trip to Philmont can be life changing. It is a spiritual place. Your time spent hiking through the valleys and standing on the peaks truly move you.
Last week I had another great Scouting moment. A moment in time that. while I know there will be more, has moved me more than I thought I would ever be moved. Returning from the National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) at Michigan State University has left me on a three foot hover. It has taken me four days to be able to put my thoughts down in writing. I tried to post daily while at the NOAC. Getting back to my dorm room around midnight everyday I would sit at the computer and stare. Everyday left me happy, tired, and looking forward to the next.
I had the privilege to be asked to be on the training staff months ago. I have done a lot of training as both a trainer and trainee, the training sessions at NOAC were impressive. When asked, of course I said yes, not really understanding the scale and scope of the training and the impact it would make. Meeting Arrowmen, both youth and adult, from all over the country, many lodges big and small, each with a shared goal but many challenges and paths to get there was a great experience. I taught a class which was part of a three hour block on making OA Unit Representatives successful. I was amazed at the attention that the Arrowmen gave. Adults that serve as advisors looking to help the youth and the youth looking to make their units, chapters and lodges better. Their ideas and their passion was overwhelming. Our session was held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Mornings. Nine hours of training, over a couple hundred Arrowmen being trained. That is a ripple that will impact their Troops and Chapters for years to come.
I loved that moment in time as our session broke for the day. Everyone heading to lunch but I was pleasantly surprised when groups of people wanted to stay after to talk about ideas or share a personal experience. It was also very cool to spend time with readers of this blog. I had one gentlemen come up to me after the class and say.. “It has taken me all hour to place the name, face, and voice..but I got it.. you are the Scoutmaster Minute guy”. We shared a laugh and of course patches.
Those moments in time are so precious.
The theme of the NOAC was “It starts with us”. I did not know where they were going with that upon arrival at MSU. But it did not take long to see that there was something special in the air. A vibe if you will that something big was going to happen this week. But here is what I got the most from the week. Listen.
Listen to our youth. They are smart, they are motivated, they are willing, they are excited.. BUT…They feel we [Adults] don’t listen. They don’t have faith that we believe in them. They are tired of being overwatched and under trusted. They want to have adventures and desire to have their own moments in time. They want to feel as though they matter.
They don’t want to be hovered over and over protected. They want to make a difference, but they want to do it in their own way. They are not us, but share the same values, vision, and have a respect for tradition.
As I watched these youth this week I could not help but think to myself.. so what’s new. Seems to me that every generation goes through that thought process. The 50’s, 60’s, 70’s.. no different in what they wanted.. but these kids are special. They have something that we never had. They are connected. They are smarter in some ways. They have never lived in a world where information was hard to find.. and they find it.
I heard many adults complain about the “Spark”. A little device that served a few purposes. First, to connect with one another. A little touch of the four fingered hand and you instantly shared your contact information. You found out where someone was from and you could connect on a personal level with a fellow arrowman. Second, it was a game. Who can get the most contacts and check in’s. I loved this idea, it moved the participant to sample a little bit of everything and seek out fellowship. It caused Arrowmen to meet Region and National officers. It was great that the likes of Wayne Brock, Tico Perez and our National President Robert Gates were also playing the Spark game and more importantly they were walking around making themselves accessible to everyone, not just those that were at the Gala event. And third the Spark served as a portal to information. All of the course material and contacts are available to the Arrowmen once they get home. This resource is greater than all the handouts, books, and give a ways that one gets at a normal conference. We were sent home with the tools to change the world.
But the complaint was once again the hum drum voice of old.. and it can be that statement which tells the story of why we can not connect with our youth and why they feel we do not think they matter.
The cell phone (smart phone) is as a part of their generation as the Scout Uniform and we saw it’s impact on the NOAC.. I for one am on board. Social media is a driving part of their and our lives. I talked with a older Scouter one day at lunch. He was not happy about all the phones and the spark game/tool. I asked him what the issue for him was. He said that it kept the boys from actually talking to one another. I asked him if he really knew what they could do with these phones and what the Scouts were doing with them. Sending Tweets about their experience so the world could share. Instantly exchanging information. Taking pictures to capture their moment in time and much more. An awesome way to staying connected. Texting to meet up and using social media to share the difference they want to make in the world.
On Wednesday night the National Chief talked about the impact that we should be making on the world. It starts with living the Admonition of the Order of the Arrow. It starts with loving one another, first as Brothers in the Order and sharing that love with everyone. He dared all of us to do our good turn daily and share it on social media. Again, there was a voice of decent from the older folks.. We should not brag about our good deed.. and I agree. But I remember Bob Mazzuca when he was the Chief Scout Executive reminding us that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are. They, whether we like it or not, use social media to stay connected. If posting a good turn on twitter using #DAREtoDO will motivate others to do the same, imagine the impact that it will have.
Friday night at the closing show the youth of the Order of the Arrow spoke loud and clear that this was their moment in time and they want us to listen. They are not asking for much. Just know that they do care, they do have great ideas, and that they want the Order of the Arrow and Scouting to last forever. They understand tradition and they want to preserve it, they just want to do it their way.
Now I have never been to a NOAC before, but I am sure that this message is not entirely new. I am sure that as the Order of the Arrow entered new decades and looked forward the youth then (who are the adults now) shared the same view. But for some reason it seemed as though this moment in time had momentum. It felt like a wave that was building throughout the week. This wave is big, powerful, and is looking to change the landscape of the OA and Scouting.. for the better. From the songs they chose, the message they sent, and the training they attended, they want to make a difference and they know that it starts with them, it starts with us.
That message flowed in everything over the course of the week. You could feel it. At the shows, when 15,000 Arrowmen packed into the arena, you could see it. A tidal wave crashing into the beach of Scouting. The sand is the same, it is taking a new shape.
Friday night as the sea of Arrowmen flowed from the Breslin Arena the feeling was strong. As they gathered and shared ice cream while listening to the driving music from the stage outside I took up a vantage point to watch this moment. My good friend Cris and I looked over the crowd as they continued the party. I told Cris to take a look across the sports field next to the arena. Thousands of Brothers gathered in circles, some larger than others but made up of Scouts from different Lodges. Boys from California sitting with Scouts from Illinois. Arrowmen from big Lodges hanging out with their Brothers from the smaller cities and towns. This is what our Brotherhood is all about. They shared that moment in time, they shared that last night at NOAC with the understanding that the next day we all had to go home and put these feelings into action.
I returned to the dorm that night to find that many of the adults of our contingent had already arrived. The interesting thing was that they all hanging out in front of the dorm. The youth started filtering in. Groups of threes and fours. They were all smiling and some even singing. As they past us they would ask if we had a good time. Of course we did I told them. I meant it. This was one of the best times of my life.. and yep.. I heard the youth loud and clear. And so did all of the adults. The choice now is theirs. The youth have a vision, are the adults willing to be apart of it? It’s a good thing and those that do not get on board will be left behind. This tidal wave is strong and will take Scouting and the OA in particular into the next Century. This excites me.
Alright, so we have had this moment in time. What do we do now. We know that change will start with us. Change is happening. From membership policy to program Scouting is different today, but that is not a bad thing. Scouting has changed a lot in its first Century plus. From uniforms to camping styles Scouting has changed to meet the needs of the Scouts it serves. We Scouters need to be the at the head of these changes. Our Values and Mission have not changed and are strong enough to stand the test of changing times. The Oath and Law are promises and values that are as relevant today as 1915 and they are being embraced by our Scouts today, it just looks different.
On the heals of the National Order of the Arrow Conference we watched from a far as Scouts from all over the world gathered in Japan to reaffirm that Scouting is alive and well. Again, this moment in time that needs to be paid attention to. If you can’t hear it you are not listening. Scouting is living!
So what will you do? Where will you take your Scouting life? It is part of everything we do, no separation, no division, Scouting is who we are. NOAC was a great moment in time, time that I want to stand still, but it can’t. This time must move so we can grow and make a difference. Then, years from now we will look back with a smile and say that we were a part of it. We remember that moment in time.
It starts with us.. you decide what “it” is.
Have a Great Scouting day!