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!