respect

…And Conservation Minded

Last weekend I sat down with a rather large group of brand new Scouts.  Most of them came from the ranks of Cub Scouts, but some had not and so getting into the habit of saying oaths and pledges for the most part is something to get used to.  We pledge to do our best, we say the Scout Oath and Law, and we learn and pledge to be good stewards with the principles of leave no trace and the Outdoor code.
Now, the fellows that had earned their Arrow of light did a real nice job with the Oath and Law, new others picked it up alright, but they all struggled with the Outdoor code.
Some told me that they never heard of it, while others said that they just did not spend time learning it.  That’s ok I told them, in Boy Scouts not only will you learn it, but you will live it.
It’s a simple pledge, that I fear to many Scouts and Scouters take either lightly or not at all.  I have heard Scoutmasters that say, we have leave no trace, why do we need the Outdoor code.
Well for starters, its simple and easy to learn.  IF it is simple and easy to learn, it’s more than likely something the Scouts will use.
I teach the Scouts the 4 C’s.  Careful with fire, Clean in my outdoor manners, Considerate of others, and Conservation minded.
OK.. Careful with fire.. we all get that.  Clean.. yeah, we know to pick up after ourselves and leave it better than we find it, Considerate of others… that can be a challenge sometimes, but we know when quiet time is, and we know how to camp in smaller groups etc.  But Conservation minded?  This is a concept that many of the young men did not seem to grab ahold of.  They know about the environment, after all, that’s all they hear about in the Schools and on TV.  How we are running out of water, there are no more trees, and that we are all going to fry because of global warming.. errr.. climate change.
Well that is a real hard sell here in Oregon.. lots of trees, plenty of water, and it seems that the temps are never going to rise.  Anyway… we all know about being Environmentally aware, so what is with this conservation minded thing?
I consider myself a conservationist.  I believe that the outdoors is there for us to enjoy… but we need to take care of it.  I believe in being a good steward of the land and our resources.  Like the loggers here in Oregon and around the US.. for every tree they cut down they plant 11 more.  This is good stewardship.  Instead of blazing trails, we stay on established trails and we do not create new trails by cutting through switch backs.  We stay out of sensitive growth areas, we do not harm the land with fires when we don’t need them, we pack it in and pack it out.  We take fewer cars on outings.  Yeah, we fill every seatbelt before we add a car to the list, does this mean that some adult do not get to go.. sometimes, but it is all apart of how we can do our share to be conservation minded.
And then there is the service.  We repair trails, we clean up our nature area, we learn about the land we camp in and how we impact it.  Conserving what we have and not wasting our land, water, and other natural resources is being conservation minded.
It is when I sit with the new Scouts that I have an opportunity to share the BSA’s view point on this and teach them the outdoor code.  It is simple and easy to use.  I learn alot about them, and they learn alot about why we pledge the things we pledge.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

“Do unto others…”

Bare with me as I rant on humanity.
I have been around the world and seen a lot of things… some good, some bad.  Today I had a day which caused me to ask What the hell is wrong with people?
Excuse me if the language is strong or the message makes you feel uncomfortable.. but What the hell is wrong with people?
I am going to assume that if you take the time to read this blog, at some level you agree with the Scout Oath and Law.  You may not agree in total, but we can again assume that you believe that people should be helpful and that we have an obligation to treat others as we wish to be treated.  Right?
Ok.. so lets go from that point then.. we agree at least this much.
Today in the fair city of weirdness (I am glad to say I do not maintain an address within the city limits of Portland) I witnessed to acts that almost got me throwing punches.
First.
The city of Portland has a rather larger transient community.. call them hobo’s, bums, homeless, whatever, the fact is this population has made Portland home.  I am not opposed to this.  Portland has many outreach organizations, shelters, and government sponsored (paid) opportunities for these people.  This has in one way or another made Portland a desirable place to be homeless.  Before I go any further.. please know that this post is not in any way shape or form bashing those that find themselves in these dire straights.  There are many reasons for one to find themselves on the streets and I have the utmost compassion for those in real need.
The story here is how one of Portland’s finer citizens treated one of these folks out on the street. 
I was at an intersection waiting for the light to change.  It was a rather long light, so I found myself watching as a BMW pulled up next to me.  A pan handler approached the BMW with his sign asking for “Anything helps” .. you know the typical verbage on your average Portland pan handlers sign.  The man holding the sign looked like a fellow just down on his luck.  He was clean and dressed in modest clothing.  With him was two kids, I would guess 10 and 14 years old.  They looked embarrassed to be standing on the corner begging.
Then I heard yelling coming from the BMW.  The pan handler said “Thanks anyway” and turned around.  This is where I lost it.  The driver of the BMW then asked, in a loud voice, if the guy wanted a drink.  The man turned around just in time to take a large drink thrown at him.  It soaked him from about the belly to his knees.  The look of shock on the kids faces brought my blood to an immediate boil.  I threw my UPS truck into park and jumped out of the driver’s seat.  I ran up to the driver of the BMW and asked “What the hell is the matter with you?”  He looked at me with a surprised look and then the light turned green and he sped away.
The pan handler had moved back to the curb and told his kids that it was time to go.  I jumped back in my truck and pulled over to clear the intersection.  I had a couple of oranges and a banana in my truck, so I gave it to them.  I told the guy I wished I could do more.  He said “I understand”.  Looking at those kids my heart drop.  I have three at home and would never want to be in that position.
Now to be honest, I probably won’t be down at the shelter tomorrow handing out blankets or serving meals, but I would never treat someone like that guy got treated today.  I know that there are lots of “Street People” that have made that their choice.  Drugs, addictions to alcohol, run aways, many have made the choice to live off of the generosity of the people who pay taxes, give freely of time, talent, and money.  But then there are those, like this guy and his kids that just got a hard knock.  
Second.
I had to fill my truck up tonight on the way home.  Yep, $100 later I thought I may be standing on the corner with a sign, the penalty for driving a F150 I guess, but it holds 21 backpacks and so I will keep on driving it.  I’d rather pay the $100 then let the Prius lobby win!  Anyway, I pulled into the gas station and braced for impact.  As I sat there chatting with the attendant (yeah in Oregon we can’t pump our own gas) A lady pulled up, rolled down her window and started yelling at the attendant.  I thought for a minute, what the heck is she yelling about?  The attendant said he would be right over and started walking toward her car.  Well by now you could hear a pin drop and all attention was on this loud mouth lady.  She said she needed her car filled up and she was not about to pay $3.90 a gallon.  The attendant politely told her that with her Safeway card she would save 3 cents a gallon.  “3 cents!” the lady yelled.. “What the *&$# I am going to do with 3 cents?”  This is where I finally had to ask, “What the hell is wrong with people?”.
After the 3 cents tirade she began a barrage of profanity and berating this young man the likes I have not seen since basic training in the early ’80’s.  The attendant stood silent and took the verbal beating.  Finally, I had enough.  I got out of my car and asked if there was something that I could do to help.  She snapped her head in my direction and told me to mind my own “F'” ing business.  I informed her that she pretty much had made this everyone’s business with her loud attitude.  I asked her to take it easy on this kid.. he’s just pumping gas, doing his job, he doesn’t set the price of gas.  She then warned me to mind my business.  I told the attendant to get his manager and that may he could work something out with this lady.  She told him that he needed to start pumping gas and let loose with a bomb shell of profane words.  As the manager arrived, I turned to her and asked “What the hell is wrong with you”.  The best part of the story is that as she got in her car and drove away.. the back of her car was filled with bumper stickers proclaiming her faith.  “God is my copilot” and “WWJD?”  I am sure he would not have acted like her.
I got home tonight and thought about this incredible day of humanity.  I thought.. naw.. this is just a freak thing… but then I thought, if I saw two of these acts today.. me.. all by myself, how many more are happening everyday all over?
It makes me upset.
What the hell is wrong with people?  At the outset, I assumed that if you read my blog, then you believe in at least parts of the Scout Oath and Law.
“To help other people at all times”, “To do my DUTY to God and my Country”, to be “Helpful, Courteous, and Kind.”  And at the end of the day something that every major religion on Earth preaches.. “To do unto others as you would have done to you”.
Simple.  So what the hell is wrong with people?
I really mean it when I say…
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Test of Three

In ancient Greece (469 – 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher
 came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, I need to tell you what I just heard about one of your students!”
 “Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”
 “Test of Three?”
 “That’s correct,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student let’s take a
moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”  “No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.” “All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”  “No, on the contrary…”
 “So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”
 The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.   Socrates continued, “You may still pass though because there is a third test – the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”
 “No, not really…”   “Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?   The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.
 This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.
As Scouts we need to be mindful of who we talk about and why we talk about them.  Your words are powerful and unless they meet the test of three, they may be hurtful.  Think before you talk, take a minute to engage the test.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

…and Morally Straight.

What do we mean when we talk about “Morally Straight”?  How do we explain that to our Scouts when our Scouts come from many different backgrounds, family dynamics, and religious beliefs?
Simply put, a Scout is clean in thought, word, and deed.
We had a situation in my troop recently where a concerned parent approached us because her son had been Googling “Questionable” subjects.  In the discussion, it became clear that this new Scout had heard some words and ideas from an older Scout and decided to ask google rather than mom and dad what it meant.
Now before we go on, it should be said that the older Scout has had a talking to and this is the message that not only he got, but a great opportunity for me to share “Morally Straight” with the Troop.
You see, as a Scout we make a promise to keep ourselves, among other things, Morally Straight.
That means that we do our very best to stay clean in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.  IF we think nasty thoughts, then we may want to take action on them.  IF we say nasty things, then we violate the promises we make in the oath and law.  And if we are nasty in our deeds or what we do, we chip away at our character.
Most of what we are talking about is how we act towards women.  It is truly the mark of a good man to treat women with respect and dignity.  Being morally straight drives how we treat the ladies of our lives.  How a man loves and treats his wife is perhaps the most important lesson that he can ever teach his children.  How men treat women in general is a real test to what the character is of that man.  If we are thinking about women in a less than respectful way, then we will show that in our actions and our words.  Women are not “Chicks”, they are not objects to be googled.  They should be held in high regard and treated well.
So if you find yourself searching the internet with less than moral intentions, or find yourself telling jokes that paint a nasty picture of women, or if you find yourself acting on something that popular culture has deemed acceptable, but you know in your heart that it is not morally straight.. stop. 
Never make yourself a liar.  You make a promise when you say the Scout Oath.  This promise is binding among men of character.  You will lose that when you act without being morally straight.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Feathers

There once was two young Indian braves that were best of friends.  They grew together, hunting, playing, and learning to be men in the tribe.  Over time, both of these men caught the eye of a young women in the tribe, and they both began to try to win her heart.
As time went on, the young women favored one over the other and they began to court.  This angered the other friend and he began to speak of his friend in ways that ultimately destroyed their friendship and the honor of young man preparing to be married.  He said vicious things about his family, he talked about this character in ways that ruined the reputation of the brave.
One day as the two former friends passed, he noticed that he had truly hurt him, a tear was in his eye.  The brave that slandered his fellow tribesman ran to the Wiseman of the tribe.
He asked the Wiseman if there was any way to repair the damage that had been done.
The Wiseman instructed him to go and climb to the highest peak, there he would find the nest of an Eagle.  In that nest would be feathers, he was to gather up all of the feathers and bring them back to the village.
The young brave set off of the journey to the highest peak.  Days upon days, he walked, always thinking about the things that he had done.  He reached the mountain and began to climb until he finally found the nest on the peak.  He gathered the feathers and started his journey back to the village.
He was greeted at the village gate by the Wiseman.  “I have done as you instructed” he declared showing the feathers.
“Good, now return to the peak and let the feathers go.. let them fly to the North and the South, the East and West” said the Wiseman. 
And so the brave turned and started his second journey to the peak.  He arrived at the mountain top and let loose the feathers.  They blew in every direction.
Upon returning to the village, the brave once again was greeted by the Wiseman.  “I have let loose all the feathered and they have blown across the land” said the brave.  “Good, my son, now go and pick up all of the feathers that you have scattered” the Wiseman replied.  “That is impossible, I can never find, nor pick up all of the feathers that I have spread across the country side.  There are to many, and I do not know where they have gone.”
“Such are your words” the Wiseman began, “Once you loose your words, like the ringing of a bell or the letting go of the feathers, you can never take them back or collect them again.  They are gone, in the wind, and where they land you will never know.  Hurtful words and words that bring pain and disrepute can never be taken back, so if you are to spread your words, make sure they are good and helpful.  Words that heal and are friendly.” 
The words of the Wiseman are so true.  Words mean nothing, until they touch the ears of the listener.  Make them count.
Think before you talk and be watchful of how you speak.
All of us can learn from this message, I have.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

One Door Closes

It is said that when one door closes.. another door opens.  Much as one chapter of a book leads to the next chapter we had a door closed last night opening the door or moving on to the next chapter in the history of our Troop.
Last night when I arrived at our Troop meeting, I was greeted by our Charter Organization Representative and another member of the Knights of Columbus.  They were friendly and said that they were paying the Troop a visit.   After I had met with a few Scouts that showed up early, they asked if I had a minute before the meeting started.  “Certainly” I said.  We went into a private meeting room.  I thought this was a great time to talk about all the great things that the Troop has been doing and to give him an updated calender of the 2012 Troop events.  So I started in with how we were doing on recruiting and advancement, then went on to talk about our run for “Troop of the Year” kind of going over our Journey to Excellence Score card.
About half way through my impromptu presentation, the COR asked if we could talk about recharter.  “Of course, I would love to talk about recharter” after all,  our recharter packet is due to the District on Wednesday.  They said that the Knights had discussed and voted to renew our Charter.  “That’s great I said.. we would hate to lose the charter partner after 8 great years”.  Well, they said.. no problem, we are going to sign the charter.. HOWEVER…  Yep.. here it comes.. the slamming of the door…
“The Knights” they started… “Voted to renew the charter, but you can no longer meet in the Knights Hall.”  My jaw hit the floor.. “WHAT?”
“Well, we [the Knights] held a discussion, and the Knights felt like you [the Scouts] no longer needed the Hall.”
“What the heck does that mean?”  I asked.  I was completely dumbfounded.  The more I asked why, the deeper and deeper the COR and Brother Knight hummed and Haa’d and danced around giving me an honest answer.
I think it is fair for me to say at this time, that I have been a Knight for 19 years.  I loyally served the Knights of Columbus as Grand Knight for several terms and as District Deputy for a term, not to mention being the Scoutmaster for the most successful program the Knights Council has.
They went on to say that we could still use the basement to store “all our gear”.. to which I replied, “What gear?”  They said, that this was the best they could do and unfortunately there was nothing else they could do for us.  Then they said, but we really want to recharter you.
I asked them what for… if we have no place to meet, we don’t need you.  As much as you are done with us, we also must be done with you…
Part of the responsibility of the CO is to “Provide adequate and secure facilities for Scouting units to meet on a regular schedule with time and place reserved”  Here are the Chartered Organization Responsibilities”
By receiving a charter from the Boy Scouts of America, the chartered organization agrees to:

  • Conduct Scouting in accordance with its own policies and guidelines as well as those of the BSA.
  • Include Scouting as part of its overall program for youth and families.
  • Appoint a chartered organization representative who is a member of the organization and will represent it to the Scouting district and council, serving as a voting member of each.
  • Select a unit committee of parents and members of the organization who will screen and select unit leaders who meet the organization’s leadership standards as well as the BSA’s standards.
  • Provide adequate and secure facilities for Scouting units to meet on a regular schedule with time and place reserved.
  • Encourage the units to participate in outdoor experiences.

At that point I heard the Scout Oath being recited, so I thanked them for the 8 good years and told them I had to get out to the meeting.  They asked me not to be mad or upset.  I told them that I was not mad, nor was I upset, I was disappointed in them, in the organization that I thought had a dedication to both youth and community.  I was disappointed that they could feel that this was the “right thing to do”.  I am disappointed in the Knights for displacing their Troop.  I told them that I was not mad and that this would be all that needs to be said.  They told me that we had till the 1st of the year.  I told them that in 24 hours we will have another Chartering Partner and they could rest assured that nothing will slow our program down and the Scouts will not be impacted by their decision.
One door closes… another door opens.
Today, I received many phone calls discussing the situation and it appears we already have a new place.  A bigger, better facility, and a Chartering Partner that values the Scouting Program.
We have not locked anything in yet, we have feelers out to two other organizations so we want to keep the options open.  After all we have 30 days to make the move.  We did have the Knights sign to get the charter in on time, but the Council knows we will be changing in the very near future.
Another door opens.
I am amazed at how our Troop committee mobilized in this effort.  Last night before the end of the meeting, they had a plan of action in place and things were on the move.  The Assistant Scoutmasters were already making calls and seeking the new location.  Today calls went out and we spent a good amount of time exchanging notes and discussions.  We are the move and not looking back.
One of the mom’s of the Troop has already volunteered to take the Charter Organization name off the flag.  Yes, they said we take everything with us.  They want nothing.
So the door is open, another chapter begins in the life of our Troop.
Last night I have to admit I was mad, disappointed, and upset that this chapter had closed.  But today is a new day and a new chapter, a fork in the trail.. the path to a new adventure.
One Door closed.. another Opened Wide!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

LNT v. The Outdoor Code

Last night I sat with a couple Scouts, they just crossed over on Friday and were having their Scoutmaster Conference for their Scout Badge.  I love this first conference, it is a great way to learn about the new Scout and a little about where he comes from.  What amazes me is how open they are in that first conference.  They always have questions and for the most part, they are anxious to get to Eagle.
Last night as one of these young men recited the Outdoor Code, he stopped and asked if he could ask a question.  I said sure… so he asked, “Why do we need the Outdoor Code when you make us know the Leave No Trace stuff?”  I thought for a minute and told him that I would have to get back to him with a good answer.
I wanted to give him the pat answer of how the Outdoor Code is in the book and is a requirement, but then I thought that Leave No Trace is also in the book and a Second Class Requirement.  So that one doesn’t work.  So I was thinking, why do we need both.
Lets review.
The Outdoor Code:
As an American, I will do my best to –
Be clean in my outdoor manners.
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation minded.
Leave No Trace Principles
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Respect Wildlife
Be Considerate of Other Visitors

The LNT program is obviously more in depth and covers every type of camping… The Outdoor Code is more of a pledge or promise.
The LNT program are not just rules, but part of the whole outdoor program.  It is a skill set and an attitude.
The Outdoor Code is the promise that we make to live as a steward of the land.
I still do not have a great answer.  I suppose that in the final analysis if I had a vote, I would just go with the Leave No Trace program.  The Outdoor code, while traditional and easy to remember does very little with our Scouts to develop the attitude of stewardship and responsibility that is required for us in the wilderness and front country alike.
So I think when it comes down to giving this Scout and answer next Monday, its going to be a program vs. a code and how we use it to make a difference and protect our land.

Have a Great Scouting Day!