Character

Habit of Service

goodturncoinDuring my recent Vigil Ordeal I had lots of time to sit and think.  Being a student of Baden Powell, thought about the book Aides to Scoutmastership.  Powell authored this book in 1920 and its contents hold true today.  Substitute King and Queen and some of the Victorian era language, and the message Baden Powell sent to Scoutmasters in 2014 is spot on.
During Vigil Ordeal I gave a lot of thought to the idea of service.  After all, this was the central focus of the Vigil. Learning about myself and finding that way in which I could be a leader in service.
When I got home I went to my copy of Aides to Scoutmastership and reread it knowing that our Founder would once again speak to me from its pages.
I stumbled on this passage that I will share in its entirety.  It speaks volumes as to our attitude of service and the importance of developing in our Scouts that habit of service.
When I was a Scout we had a little coin that we carried, it reminded us to “Do a Good Turn Daily”.  Once the good turn was done, the coin was transferred to the other pocket, and so it went one good turn after another.
I hope you find this passage as meaningful as I do.
TO ERADICATE SELFISHNESS – THE GOOD TURN HABIT
The Scouting practices tend in a practical way to educate the boy out of the groove of selfishness. Once he becomes charitable he is well on the way to overcome or to eradicate the danger of this habit.  The Promise that a Scout makes on joining has as its first point: “To do my duty to God.” Note that it does not say “To be loyal to God,” since this would merely be a state of mind, but to do something, which is the positive, active attitude.
The main method in the Boy Scout Movement is to give some form of positive training rather than merely to inculcate negative precepts, since the boy is always ready to do rather than to digest.
Therefore, we put into his activities the practice of Good Turns in his daily life as a foundation of future goodwill and helpfulness to others. The religious basis underlying this is common to all denominations, and we, therefore, interfere with the form of none.
The boy can then realize better that part of his “Duty to God” is to take care of and develop as a sacred trust those talents with which God has equipped him for his passage through this life; the body with its health and strength and reproductive powers to be used in God’s service; the mind with its wonderful reasoning, memory and appreciation, which place him above the animal world; and the soul, that bit of God which is within him-namely, Love, which can be developed and made stronger by continual expression and practice. Thus we teach him that to do his Duty to God means, not merely to lean on His kindness, but to do His will by practicing love towards one’s neighbor.
The curious thing is that this duty of Service for Others through Good Turns is the one to which Scouts rise with the fullest alacrity. On this seemingly small foundation (the giving up of small personal conveniences or pleasures in order to render service) is built the character of self-sacrifice for others.
Let me know what you think of this passage and share your ideas about growing an attitude of service in your Scouts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Where do they go from here?

gradsIt’s that time of the year.. Graduation season.  And in a lot of cases, it’s Eagle Scout season too as the young man becomes motivated by his up coming 18th Birthday.  So Congratulations to all the Grads and New Eagle Scouts this year.
Thursday night I attended the graduation ceremony of my nephew.  He is also our Troops newest Eagle Scout.  As we sat in the coliseum waiting for the graduation to start, I took a look at the program.  In it was a list of the graduates of the Gresham High School Class of 2014.  Quickly my eyes moved to find Lucas’s name, but as I scanned the page my eyes caught other names.  Jacob P, James P, Jeffery D, Jake R… These were all Scouts that have been in our Troop.  Over time some of them lost interest, had other obligations, and even earned their Eagle award and still participate.  There were other names of young men that I know from other Troops in our area.  I have watched them grow through the Order of the Arrow and other Scouting activities.  As I looked over the names I found them in the crowd.  They are all grown up.
After the graduation was over I went looking for these guys to wish them well and congratulate them.  For some it was the first time I had seen them in a while, for others we talk regularly.  The common thought that ran through my mind was how grown up they all looked on Thursday night.  Reflecting back on when they crossed over into the Troop, their first camp outs and some of the funny things they had done to bring a spark in our Troop.  Then the question repeated over and over again through out the crowd was, “What are they going to do now?”, “Where do you go from here?”
Some are going off to college in the fall, some are going to trade schools.  Some are heading into the Service, and some still are kind of undecided.  On the list of names was a list of the Scholarships and the graduates that are receiving them.  I was pleased to see that our guys are doing well.  Everyone of the Scouts from our Troop are going on to do something that they have passion for and will better themselves.  Jacob was the big surprise of the evening.  I have not seen him in some time.  He is a young man who has always had a rough go, a tough family situation, and the chips never seemed to fall in his favor.  He is going to college in the fall and received a Scholarship that will help him see his dreams come true.  I spoke with him briefly after graduation.  He said he was sorry that he did not stay in Scouting.  I explained to him that I understood.  He then told me that the reason he is the person he is today is because of the time he spent in our Troop.  Not the rank or merit badges, but the life lessons and skills that he learned.  The way to be a man and live a life of Character.  He asked if he was allowed to hug me, I said yes.  We parted ways with a smile and a promise that I will be there when he graduates from college.
Where do they go from here?
My youngest son is graduating also this year.  Thursday night of this coming week.  Josh spent many years in our Troop also and had to make a choice to play Football or stay in Scouts.  He picked Football, but not until he and I talked and looked at his dreams.  Josh has had the dream of playing in the NFL since he was in 3rd grade.  He set his goals high and worked hard.  He would throw that football for hours working on accuracy.  Then as he grew he got faster, stronger, and more knowledgeable about the game.  He understood the steps to getting to the NFL.  High School football, College football, get his degree, and never stop getting better.
He played every down in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades and then won the starting job in Middle School.  As a Freshman he started at Quarterback on the Freshman team and was the 3rd string QB on the Varsity team.  His Sophomore year he became the starting Quarterback of the Varsity team and played in the position until the last snap of his Senior year.  College Scouts looked at him, recruited him, and he knew that his dream was going to come true.  It’s just a matter of where.  Southern Oregon University finally offered him a Red Shirt QB position on the team.  But with it comes no guarantee that he will play.  If you do not play, you do not get better and you do not get seen.  The College of the Redwoods had been watching Josh and gave him an offer to actually play.  He took it.  Josh will be playing Football in College starting this year.
Determination, Patience, and a strong work ethic drove him to seeing his dreams come true.  Step by step he is making his dreams a reality.
This has been a long and hard road for him and our family.  Thousands of miles on the road to camps and college visits.  Thousands of dollars in fees, hotels, and gas for the truck.  It is has taken time and energy, pain and lots of tears.  But in the end, it is all coming alive the way he wants it.
I was told once by a mentor of mine, that the job of a Dad (among other jobs) is to make our kids dreams come true.  My oldest Son is serving in the Army.  Little did we know that he always had a vision of serving and doing great things in the Military.  My example and teaching him over the year that he grew up the son of a Sergeant Major lead him to success in finding his path.  I still want him to go to college, and would love for him to be home, but I know that he is finding his way.. his way.
Our Daughter is going to college to ultimately serve in the area of Childhood development.  I am so proud of this kind-hearted, sweet young women.  She is blossoming into beautiful young lady with a heart of gold.
When I look at the young men that come through our Troop, I wonder, where do they go from here.  Have we done everything we can to prepare them.  Do they know that life does not hand out participation ribbons and at times it is very difficult to navigate the challenges.
My Scouts and My kids have shown me those answers.  Character, Determination, and finding your dream is the key.
It does not matter where they go or how they get there.  It is what they do with it once they arrive that I come to find out is most important.
They don’t all go to college, but have great lives.  They don’t all make a million dollars, but are rich in their hearts and minds.
I am proud of all of them.
Congratulations to Lucas my nephew and Josh, my youngest Son!  And Congratulations to all of the young men that passed through our Troop and are proving today that Scouting mattered in their lives.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014!
“So long as your desire to explore is greater than your desire to not screw up, you’re on the right track. A life oriented toward discovery is infinitely more rewarding than a life oriented toward not blowing it…Don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.” – Ed Helms, Commencement Address at Knox College 2013.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

What Pleases Jerry

IMG_6206It is interesting to hear what our Scouts think and say.  At most of their ages, they have not yet learned to filter their conversations based on who they are around or what the circumstances may be.  On the way to our last camp out a younger Scout asked an older Scout what they had to do at the camp out.  The response from the older Scout was this, “What ever pleases Jerry.”
Now I know this young man and I know that he was being sarcastic to a point, and on the other hand, I know that his comment was directed at the fact that I hold the older Scouts to a higher standard and ask them to demonstrate leadership.  This Scout would much rather sit around and do nothing in most cases… and by and large, that is exactly what he and his buddy did during the last camp out.
What this and other Scouts fail to realize is that his response to the younger Scout is actually 100% accurate.  “Whatever pleases Jerry” is actually the right answer.
So what pleases Jerry?
1.  When the Scouts have fun.
2.  When the Scouts learn.
3.  When the Scouts demonstrate leadership.
4.  When the Scouts seek and find adventure.
5.  When the Scouts develop the bonds of a high performance team.
6.  When the Scouts have a sense of accomplishment.
7.  When the Scouts get the opportunity to see and do something new.
8.  When the Scouts practice leadership and find success in their skills.
9.  When the Scouts learn that winning is better than losing in life.
and finally…
10. When a Scout looks back on Scouting, smiles, and knows it was worth his time.
That is what pleases Jerry.
So Mr. Older Scout… you nailed it!  And guess what.  The Scout you told that to lived up to that expectation.
Thank You!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Setting your bar higher

I always tell the Scouts of my Troop that mediocre is never good enough.  Expect more of yourself and always do your best.  Don’t just do good… Good may not be good enough and if you start early in life expecting more you will achieve more later in life.
We see every day in the world around us people who expect little of themselves and don’t even try.  They live mediocre lives and get very little out of life.  These people complain a lot and expect every one else to be as unhappy as they are.
Last night I attended my son’s Track and Field awards celebration.  His last year in High School track.  Josh is a sprinter and part of the relay teams.  The track coach shared some thoughts at the start of the program that I thought hit the nail on the head when it comes to our discussion of doing your very best in life and never settling for mediocre.
He shared the story of a French pole vaulter named Renaud Lavillerie.  In February of 2014 Lavillerie set the World Record by vaulting an incredible 6.16 meters, that’s 20.21 feet.  HOLY SMOKE!!  Do you know what 20.21 feet looks like?  Take a tape measure and measure that out in your house.  Or lay that on your house.  As I listened to this great accomplishment I could not help but thinking about what it took to get there.
He had to start with the bar set at a certain height and once he cleared it, it was on to the next height.  But what made him want to keep pushing it higher and higher.  He is not mediocre.  He was not going to settle for less.

Not settling for less is what is important.  I often see Scouts and people in general that tend to settle for less.  They “Max the minimum” as one leader told me once when looking at a group of people that we giving less than 100%.  Allowing yourself to never to set the bar higher than you think you can jump will keep you from achieving your potential.  You have no idea what that is until you push your limits.
I watch our Scouts when they first attempt climbing.  They lack trust and confidence in themselves.  That is because they have never pushed themselves beyond their comfort zone.  They are comfortable keeping the bar set low enough to see one success after each other meaningless success.  Success is only good once for each task.  Once complete you should strive for the next level of success and so on.
Setting your bar higher will lead you to achieving greater things.  In our Troop we have the 5 leadership Principles that will make you a better leader.  They force you to set your bar higher.  Learning to lead yourself can be painful and uncomfortable.  It makes the leader see where the bar is and asks the question are you willing to move it up.  Focusing on the small things again force the leader to not accept mediocre behavior.  Like the pole vaulter the little things allowed him to run, plant the pole, and whip his body over incredible heights.  He could not have done the big thing without focus on the smaller things.  Modeling Expected behavior is hard.  It requires that you are your best all the time.  That is what we want.. the best.  So you must as a leader model what Best looks like.  Best then pushes us to raise the bar.  Communicating effectively too asks us to raise the bar in how we share our ideas and thoughts with other people.  It requires us to use multiple modes of communication and then evaluate that communication to ensure it is effective.  And finally being a Servant Leader.  In the world we live in today, where self if more important than others it is refreshing to see people raise their bar and become a leader in serving other people… at all times.  This is a bar that is higher than any one can leap, but a bar that can be achieved within the heart.  It is bar that needs to be set high and reached, and then set higher.  It is not till the leader becomes a servant that he will ever be an effective leader.  That bar needs to be realized in each of us.
Setting your bar higher will give you a better, richer, more full life.  Set your bar higher!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Delivering the scolding… or promise?

BP“The Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself.”
“The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of another brother.”
“The spirit is there in every boy; it has to be discovered and brought to light.”
“There is no teaching to compare with example.”
“To get a hold on boys you must be their friend.”
I know that it is bad form to start with a list of quotes, but all of these quotes are from the founder of Scouting, Baden-Powell.  They come to mind when I look back on this weekend and some of the things that I saw at our District Camporee.
The question is Why?  Why do some Scoutmasters feel the need to make Scouting a chore?  Why do they insist on not making it fun for the Scouts?  Why is there is a reason to yell or belittle a Scout?  Why?
I wish I could say that this is an isolated case and I am talking about one Scout Leader.  But I am not.
Here is the problem as I see it.  These leaders have no idea what Scouting is supposed to look like.  One particular Scoutmaster explained to me that what the Scouts lack is discipline and it was his job to make sure they are disciplined.  You see, I feel that is the parents job.
The same Scoutmaster yelled at his troop over a bent tent-peg.
Another leader explained to me that Scouting is supposed to make our boys gentlemen and respectful.  I asked if her example was helping as she screamed at a Scout for playing with his patrol mates.
Yet another Scout leader had a group of Scouts at attention as they were dressed up and down about not doing well in their uniform inspection.  The leader’s shirt was un-tucked and looked like he slept in it and instead of a Scout hat or Troop hat, he was wearing a hunting hat as he ripped a Scout a new one over not wearing his Troop hat.
Why?
And we wonder why Scouts leave.  I even talked with a Scout who would love to leave his Troop, but can’t because his Dad is one of the leaders.  Really?
This weekends Camporee was fun.  It was one of the better camporees we have had in a while, so why do the adult have to screw it up for the boys.
Again, they clearly do not understand what Scouting is all about.
We are not the Army.  We are not a boarding school for wayward boys.  This is Scouting and above all, the boys need to have fun.  It is that game with a purpose that will teach them the skills to deal with life’s challenges and develop those life long values that will guide them to be disciplined and self-reliant.
How can a boy discover that light when the adults around him are constantly looking to snuff it?  How can a boy learn to play the game, when the rules change or are unclear?  How friendly is the constant brow beating?
I think that some leaders need to take a look in the mirror and find out if they are delivering the promise of Scouting or just a good scolding.
The best part of the discussion I had with our Anti Powell was when he pointed to my Troop, at the time they were all playing Frisbee in a field between the camp sites.  Loud laughter and complete grab ass was in full effect.  He pointed out that camporee was not about playing.. it was about competition.  I explained that there is certainly a time and a place for everything.  He said, “Look at your camp site… no matching tents, no patrol boxes, no discipline.”  I explained that we are a backpacking troop and do not have patrol boxes or matching tents, and so far as discipline, we have plenty of that.  It comes with living the Scout oath and law.  Then in a moment of arrogance, I pointed out that what he was looking at was the Troop of the Year and we are doing it right.  With that, I bid him a good day and joined the boys in the game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Camporee was a fun time and a great experience for our Troop.  They all had fun and competed well.  It is unfortunate that there are leaders out there that just don’t get it.  If only they took the time and put in the effort to delivering the promise of Scouting, using the same energy they put into yelling, berating, and making life hard for their Scouts, they would have great Troops.  The boys are there and willing, they need good adults to have the heart of a Boy and do Scouting the way the founder wanted it to be.
If only.
I had a great weekend with the Scouts of our Troop.  It’s why we keep playing this game.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

One Life

Spirit of AmericaThe other night I had the pleasure of sitting in as an advocate for a Scout in my Troop at his Eagle Board of Review.
I enjoy the position that the Scoutmaster is placed in as the advocate, physically the Scoutmaster sits behind and out of the view of the Scout and mentally, it is a great place to learn from the Scout to know that you are truly delivering the promise of Scouting.
The first question the board asked this young man was if he had ever looked at the back of his Scout Handbook.  On the back cover are the Aims of Scouting.  The Scout replied that he had not looked at the back.  The board asked him to pick up his book and read it.  Then asked if he was aware that these were the aims or goals of Scouting.  He said that he did know that.  How did you know that they wanted to know.  My Scoutmaster does not stop talking about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness the Scout said in a matter of fact.  They chuckled a bit and then asked what he thought about those three words and how much they meant to Scouting.  His answer knocked me out of my chair.  He looked at the board and said “Those three words mean more to me than this award.  They mean that I am a good man and that I will always be a good man.”
From that point on I knew that this board was going to be interesting.  And it was.  He had an opinion when they asked for one, he talked about the great times that he had in Scouting and he shared what he had learned about being a leader.
As I sat behind him I felt deep pride in this young man and listened as he confirmed that we really are providing a program that the boys get.
To close the board, they asked about the Scout Oath and Law.  He shared his feelings, understanding, and practice of living the Oath and Law daily.  Not without challenge and difficulty but the bottom line was that he is that person every day.
This got me to thinking about comments I have heard from Scouts and Scouts all over.  It reminded me of an on going discussion that we have about being a Scout and living Scout like all of the time, the fact that we only have One Life.
We are what our Facebook Status says we are.  We are what our Twitter account looks like.  We are where we hang out and the people that we associate with.  We are what we say and what we do.  That defines our Character.
You are not just a Christian on Sunday, you not just a Scout on Monday nights, you are not just a Dad when the kids are around, you are not just a Scoutmaster when you wear the hat.
There is no separation.  There can’t be, that goes against the principle of Character.  Choose to accept that or not but your Character will be your guide and that is when you will have to face the reality of who and what you are.
I stress character all the time in our Troop, in fact I care more about character than anything else in Scouting.  I don’t care if a Scout earns his Eagle if he has not got the point about character, citizenship, and being mentally and physically fit.  If he did not get it, he just got another patch and the award will be meaningless.
We hold the Eagle award up on that lofty space for that reason, we all do it.  Every one respects and admire those that have earned this award and rightly so…if they got it.  If they make that choice to have one life and that is the life of Character.
I was asked by a Scout why I will not friend him on Facebook.  I make it a practice not to friend Scouts or any minor that is not family on Facebook.  It is not because of what I might put on the internet… it’s that I don’t want to be placed in a position to know what they are putting on the internet.  I would rather have them make good choices and discuss it during conferences.  Facebook is not where I want to build my discussion bullets for the next time I see the Scout.
You have but one life.  You do not get to split out your internet life and your real life.  You have the ability to maintain good character.  Once you decide to part ways with it, it can not come back.  Once the bell is rung, you can not un-ring it.
Think before you act, pause before you hit enter, read before you press send.  Character matters.
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Heart and Mind

vigil2Maybe it’s that I am getting a little older.  Could be that my mind tends to view things a little different with the kids growing and moving on with their lives.  It may be that I have a clearer understanding of what is really important in my life.  All of these things race through the mind and heart as I had hours and hours to reflect on life, keep my fire bright, and look to the future.
Scouting, the Order of the Arrow, Wood Badge… they all have a place in our hearts and minds.  We pick and choose how we feel about them and they take on meaning in our lives, some greater than others and some more meaningful to each of us than others.
At the Rendezvous of the Order this year I got into a rather spirited debate about the Order of the Arrow and how some members do not get the most of the message of the ceremony, the meaning of membership, and of course the lack of some to uphold their obligation.  It seemed that most youth can take it or leave it, it is just another part of Scouting, a part of the Scouting experience that they know is a bit more special, but at the end of the day, just another part of Scouting.  I have watched as some Scouts do not fully grasp the meaning and the high ideals of the Order and on occasion I too have been that voice crying out for them to understand that it is more than just a club within Scouting.  As an adult I tend to be more aware of the meaning with the hope that it all sinks in to these young men.  I suppose I am one of those adults that want more from our boys.
Back at the Rendezvous I was one of the voices that expressed my concern about how Scouts are elected into the Order of the Arrow.  Some units send everyone that meets the eligibility requirements, while other units select those that are good candidates to live the obligation.  Looking ahead to a Scouts potential to be that example of Honored Camper-ship, a leader in Service, and one that will strive to uphold the obligation of the Order.  Somewhere along the way Scouts get in to the OA and in some cases do not see the symbolism and meaning of membership.
Yesterday morning I was reassured about the Order of the Arrow when I completed my Vigil.  I was welcomed to the fullness of the Order of the Arrow and in a discussion with a good friend of mine afterward, assured that this is where the separation of those that “get it” and those that don’t happen.  Being called to the Vigil Honor is that affirmation that we do pledge to live the obligation and take it to heart and mind.
I do not say this with any intent to be arrogant or self-righteous.  Simply that for those of us that do take this serious, it is nice to be among others that in their hearts and minds believe in the good that this Honor, this Order brings to our fellow-man.  It is more than a club, more than ceremonies, more than camping… it is a life spent seeking the opportunity to be a leader in service to others.  To be that example of service and a dedication to help other people at all times.
We serve to teach, we lead to serve, we serve to make our world a better place.
Ten hours alone in my mind and my heart was an overwhelming experience for me.  I can share thoughts, but I will reserve the discussion about the Vigil so as not to ruin it for you.
Maybe it is that I am getting older, maybe a tad bit wiser.  Maybe I think about the future, my kids, wife, and family.  Maybe it is the lessons I try to impart on the young men of my Troop and the life that I try hard to lead.  This organization offers so much in the way of finding yourself and giving you the tools and motivation, maybe the purpose to serve.
The more I sat and thought about why I was sitting in the woods, in the rain, tending to my fire, the clearer it all became.  My steadfast purpose to be a better husband and father.  To be a man who serves unselfishly.  To be a leader that not just teaches, but models the way in which we want our young men to grow.
A rekindling of a fire that burns ever brighter today, the spirit of which will never grow dim.  Even when the flame is not at its peak, the hot bed of coals glow from below keeping the fire burning.
I am Honored, and you know I do not throw that word around, to have been called to the Vigil.  I have kept the Vigil and will keep it burning deep in my heart and mind to be shared.
I was given the name Schachachkatschimuin Wewingtonheet.  Translated from the language of the Lenne Lanapi to Inspiring Story Teller.  I think it fits.
Have a Great Scouting Day!