Service

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!

Creating separation

4-PercentOnce a Scout meets the requirements for First Class the focus changes from basic skills development to discovering all that Scouting has to offer, service, and leadership.
The Scout will discover Scouting through the merit badge program, high adventure bases, Jamboree’s and being an active member of his Troop.  Often times his participation in high adventure increases once he has developed the skills and is a little more mature and taking on greater responsibilities in the unit.
But it is in leadership that the Scout starts to separate himself from the pack.  When a Scout sits with me for his First Class and Star conferences I explain to him that it is important to begin that separation from the crowd.  I am not suggesting that they leave, I am encouraging them to stand out.
Only 4 percent of all Scouts that stay in our program will earn the Eagle award.  Only 4%.  So it is important for a Scout that wants to earn his Eagle award to stand out from the other 96%.  There is a difference in those young men.  Not everyone is supposed to get their Eagle.  It takes dedication and effort and a willingness to serve and lead.  The Scout that does not separate will not stand out in leadership and service.  They need not go above and beyond.. they only need to meet the standard, but the standard [when kept] is high… by design.
While I want all of my Scouts to achieve the rank of Eagle, I find it more important that they have a well rounded Scouting experience.  I want to them to demonstrate sound leadership and develop the heart of a servant.  In the world in which we find ourselves.. that is a stand out person.  We can teach the value of merit and working for what you get.  We can reverse the cycle of “participation trophies” and meaningless activity. The Scout that learns about the value of setting goals, working hard, and making a choice to be better than average is a young man that is separating himself from his peers to be a better man.
Creating separation is an important part of achieving goals and being a better man.  It is easy to go with the flow and maintain mediocrity.  It is another thing to actually do your very best and make a choice to make a difference.
Encourage your Scouts to stand out.. separate from the pack.. be better.
Thanks for hanging out on the blog.. let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Worthy Cause

acorn-wideAs I was driving home from work I was listening to a local Classical Music station.. it sooths me.  What I like about the Classical station and most talk radio stations is that they do not play a lot of advertisements.  This often goes without notice as you listen and enjoy the station but it is always noticed during those one or two times a year that the stations have their “listener-athon” or whatever they call it.  The annual or bi annual plea for funding to keep the station on the air and free of advertising.  Now there are many reasons I am sure that these stations try to stay away from endless ads, but it would also seem that the ads could remove some of the stress of “begging” for money every year.  Sure these stations receive funds from corporate donors and “friends of” donations, but by and large they rely on the listener, the end user, the person that enjoys what they produce.  It is a worthy cause to be sure… for the station and the listener.  It is free to produce what they want without being tied to this or that company paying for ad space or promoting their interest.  It is one thing to be “brought to you by…” than Company X paying holding stake in your product.. I suppose.  But a worthy cause none the less.
I, like many of you have many causes that are near and dear to you and what you do.  We get their pleas in the mail, most to only end up in the trash can.  They are all worthy causes and are in need of funding, after all it does take money to make most things happen.  I get mail from the Pacific Crest Trail Association,  The Non Commissioned Officers Association, the Red Cross, the National Infantry Association, various Alumni groups etc.  They are all worthy causes and at some point I donated, joined, answered their plea, or took interest in them.  I believe in giving to worthy causes.  I can not be an active part in all of them, so sometimes my contribution, big or small, is my way of fulfilling a need to support a cause.
Ok, by now you are noticing that I have not mentioned the Boy Scouts of America.  Well we will get to that here real soon.
First however I need to rant a bit on what seems to be an overwhelming theme with the “Worthy Cause appeal”.  The theme is that someone else will do it.
Someone else will donate.  Some “Big Business” will take care of it.. after all.. they can afford it.  Someone else should step up and keep this station on the air, or that trail maintained, or that museum staffed, or…
Someone else always seems to take care of your worthy cause.  That which you enjoy, take advantage of, or participate in.  Membership allows for that right?  I pay my dues.. I shouldn’t have to do more.  Someone else can afford to do more.
Time, Treasure, Talent.  We all have some, we can do more, we need to budget our worthy cause or causes into our lives.
You pick and choose what that cause is, we all do.  We decide what is important to us and those around us and make a choice to support it or just take advantage of “Someone else”.
The Boy Scouts of America.  My worthy cause.
For over a century it has relied on the stewardship of its members, Alumni, and those that know and understand what its mission is.  It takes money to make programs happen.  It takes support to ensure that the mission can be sustained and accomplished.  A mission that takes the life span of the member and will never stop as long as a 7 year boy comes to a join night.  It will forever need support and funding as long as Troops load up the vans, buses, and station wagons and head to summer camp.  It will continue to be in need of time, treasure, and talent as long as we wish our young people to learn, live, and share the values and make choices that shape their character.  Yes, a worthy cause.
But, Someone else will do it.
Each year the BSA asks of its members to become a Friend of Scouting.  To go above and beyond their contribution of time and talent.  To do more financially than their annual dues and registration fees.  To support the organization where it counts.  The worthy cause that is provided at the local Council level.  Where the Scout and the Scouts family benefit.  It takes more than registration fees and lending a helping hand at a local camp, it takes money, just like you local radio station that asks for support to maintain its programing uninterrupted by ads.
Yes the BSA goes to corporations and asks for their contribution.  The BSA targets organization that share our values and support our type of programing.  Buts not enough and we can’t rely on someone to do it.
We all know that Scouting is a worthy cause.  We all know what the outcomes can be because of Scouting.  We all know that Scouting offers programing that no other youth organization can do.  But we can not wait for someone else. We all need to do our part.
Budgeting your worthy cause.
I will not tell you how to spend your money.  My wife and I are like everyone else, we have a budget and try to stick to it.  We know what we have and what we can give.  We make a choice each year on what and who we are going to support.  For us, the Boy Scouts of America is our worthy cause.  We have seen what it does for the young men and their families.  We have watched as our sons took advantage of the all of the great programs the BSA offers.  From monthly campouts to the National Jamboree.  From Summer camp to Philmont our family has always enjoyed what the Boy Scouts of America offers and does.  So when we budget our giving we make a choice to give to our worthy cause.  We choose to support Scouts.  Our sons are grown and no longer actively in the program, even though Scouting will always be a part of their lives.  Now we support someone else, we have become that someone else that does it because someone else didn’t do it.  Like the radio station, I want Scouting’s programming to stay on the air.  I budget how much time I wish to give, how much of my talent I have to give, and how much treasure I have to give.  The bottom line is what we decide is our worthy cause.  The cause that means the most to us.  The cause that we see the most impact for our dollar.  And the cause that we know can last forever if we all pitch in.
What is your worthy cause.  Just because you are reading this does not mean it is Scouting.  I know that.  When I make our annual Friends of Scouting appeal to my Troop we ask that everyone help support a Scout.  We ask that they all do something to help.  A dollar, Two hundred dollars, whatever they can budget to help Scouting.  I ask that they take a look at their Scout and Scouting family and see the benefits that come with Scouting.   Finally I ask that they believe in what Scouting does and decide if it is important enough to them to keep it going.  I ask that they make Scouting a worthy cause.
Each year, we make our goal, last year we exceeded our goal and that is wonderful.  The best part for me is the understanding that the families of our unit make Scouting a priority and worthy of their giving.  This says a lot about them to me.  They share the values of Scouting and do not want to let “someone else” be the reason their son and the sons of families in the future enjoy Scouting.
Yes, it is a worthy cause.  Worthy of our time, our treasure, and what little talent I have.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

ILST.. what did we learn?

jonteachingIntroduction to Leadership Skills Training (ILST), for some of you it means JLT others remember TLT.. either way it amounts to training your youth leaders to make their troop better.  Each year we conduct our youth training with the goal of getting the youth leaders of the troop all on the same page, giving them a basic level of understanding leadership as it applies to them, and teaching them how to BE, KNOW, and DO their job as leaders.
This year we have spent a great deal of time discussing leadership at each troop meeting.  The goal was to move our troop from a great troop to a high performance team.  A team that believed in itself and was able to integrate new members without a step backward.  With an aggressive annual plan and some really great young men the year was a banner year for the troop.
This weekend was a busy weekend for the Scouts and adults of 664.  The day started with the annual Scouting for Food campaign.  Collecting food and then working for 6 hours at the St. Vincent dePaul food pantry.  After a great morning of service it was off to our meeting place for ILST.  The training ended with dinner and then the rest of the troop arrived for an all night lock in game night.
The approach this year for ILST was a lot different than in years past.  We had Scouts that attended NYLT (National Youth Leader Training) in the summer and so over the last few months we have called on them to pass on some of the skills learned.  We also provided opportunities for those Scouts to practice some of what they learned at NYLT.  This proved to be very positive and as a result much of what we normal cover during ILST has been taught, learned , and practiced within the youth leaders of the troop.
The Senior Patrol leader and I talked a bit about what we wanted to develop in our leaders this year and going into next.  We decided that we needed to know what our leadership styles are and how use those styles to move the troop to being that high performance team.  Not just doing our best, but making every patrol better and making a difference in the Troop.. so much a difference that we maintain a level of high performance.  So we narrowed our focus to two subject areas.  1.  What is leadership and the pillars of leadership that move our troop.  and 2.  What are the nuts and bolts of the stages of team development and how do we apply that at every level in the troop to ensure we achieve and maintain the high performance team.
We split the training, I took the first half discussing leadership and our pillars.  This is where we really started to learn about the young men of the troop.  Rather than lecture, we held a discussion on the five pillars of leadership that make our troop successful.
Learning to lead yourself, Focusing on the little things, Modeling Expected behavior, Communicating effectively, and being a Servant Leader.
As the discussion went each Scout provided input on what he believed it meant to be and know those leadership traits as well as how they would use them to make our troop better.  I was pleasantly surprised to listen as the Scouts really did have a good grasp of them and understood how they could make a difference in the Troop.
It was comments like, “if I can’t get me own gear together.. how do I expect the rest of the Patrol to follow me and get theirs together”.  Or perhaps it was “Do as I say not as I do doesn’t work with my patrol.”  Comments like that let me know we are on track.
Then the Senior Patrol leader instructed the stages of team development session.  He went through the Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing stages as they are defined and shared what he thought they should look like.  The patrols then did an exercise that we use in Wood Badge where they each put together and share a story about a high performance team that they have been on and why it was successful.  We heard stories about NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), our 50 miler in the Olympics, and the story of a Scout that finally found a fit in a new patrol that allowed him to make friends and increase his level of activity in the troop.   Again, I learned a lot about the youth leaders of our Troop.
Following the training as we sat and ate dinner, I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader.  I asked him what he learned.  He shared that he was happy to hear that “they get it”, he added that the final exercise we did when we asked each Scout what they were going to do to make a difference in the troop really spoke volumes.  Each Scout shared something that could really move the needle in our troop.  It was great to hear.  The coolest part was when the Senior Patrol leader said.. “Ok.. let’s do it!”
That was all that could be said to wrap up the training.  I thought about it a bit last night as I watched the Scouts have fun playing games and socializing.  They are a high performance team, then just need to get all the arrows lined up.  This morning as they cleaned up what looked like the mess that FEMA should have been called for.. it was an efficient process and well led.
I am so proud of these guys.
Another JLT/TLT/ILST.. what ever you call your Youth Leader Training…in the books and moving our Troop to perfection!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Living or Dying

r1933A Scout Troop is a family.. and it’s either living or dying.  It’s either growing or shrinking, viable or withering on the vine.  There are many reasons for this, but the point of the matter is that if we are not watching for it we will let units fail.  It isn’t always easy to pinpoint one thing or another, but the more you focus the clearer the issues become and the faster a unit can recover when it finds itself dying.
I find that a close examination of the how the unit is using the methods is a great start.  Oh and by the way, this is important for units that are living and living well too.  You may just find that you are slipping in an area that down the road can lead to a cancer that can not be cured in the unit.
Is the unit using all eight of the methods or just picking and choosing which ones are important to them?  I liken that practice to picking and choosing which of the values in the Scout Law are less important and need not apply.
A strong program relies on the methods to achieve the goals of Scouting.  Too many units favor advancement over other methods.  I have seen those units race their Scouts to Eagle and then die.. they lost the older Scouts and leadership.  The families disengage once their son “Eagles Out” [a term that does not have any place in Scouting].  There is no longer a dog in the hunt for the family and the Scout feels as though he has reached the end.  NO NO… he has just begun.  Now it’s time to give back and be a leader.  But with the emphasis on advancement, the Scout and his family see no other needs that the unit can provide.
Some Troops believe that the Patrol Method is all you need.  While I agree that the Patrol method is everything to the Patrol and health of the Troop, it is certainly not all you need.  Where do you practice the Patrol method?  At Troop meetings?  Sure, some, but its the Outdoor program that makes the Patrol method come alive.. so no the Patrol method is not all you need.  How do you put into practice the Ideals of Scouts, you know those ideals and values found in the Scout Oath and Law?  You need a well planned and executed Service program in the life of the Troop.  Service opportunities that engage the Scout and teach him to be a selfless servant to others.  This is a wonderful leadership trait as well.  Being a servant leader will certainly get the young man farther and reinforce the ideals of Scouting.
I once heard a quote, and I want to say it came from Baden Powell, “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.”  The uniform is an important part of Scouting.  I have talked about this before so I won’t beat that horse to death, but the uniform is an essential part of Scouting.  It builds the team.  It helps with discipline.  It is a great equalizer.  The uniform connects us in the World Brotherhood of Scouting and is the most visible part of the Scout in public.  It should be worn completely and correctly.  Many adult leaders make a choice to allow jeans and other parts of the uniform to be exchanged.  They claim that it is a money issue.  It isn’t.  A Scout is thrifty.  He can always go mow a lawn, rake some leaves, or even sell popcorn to buy a new uniform or pants for it.  Taking the easy way out on the uniform reflects the attitude of the leader to not use the methods of Scouting completely.  “Attitude reflects leadership” so says my favorite quote from the movie Remember the Titans.  This attitude of pick and choose can do more harm than good in the long run and it has been my observation that it can ultimately lead to a unit dying.
And no.. it’s not about the uniform.  It’s about the methods.  Those tried and true methods that lead our youth to a better understanding of who they are and what they will become.  It teaches Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  And that my friends is why do Scouting.  We believe this works and that is proven daily, weekly, monthly in units all across our country.  It is proven in the Eagle Scouts that go on to do great things in their lives and in the Scouts that go into the world and become Dads that raise wonderful people.  Scouting works, but we need to keep it alive.  Using the eight methods will keep it from dying.
The methods need to be visible in your annual plan, in your interactions with the Scout, and in your attitude.  That will reflect great leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!