My family has been involved in scouting for generations. I clearly recall as a young boy reading my father’s handbook from cover to cover. I read it over and over again as I grew up. In those days it was more of a field guide than it is today. There was a lot of information that I found useful as a young man. That is what many people think of when they hear discussion of the Boy Scouts. What they do not realize is the deep impact the principles taught in scouting can have on a young man. I have seen this first-hand as a parent, employer, Scoutmaster and merit badge counselor.
The Scout Law
A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent
The Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best. To do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law. To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
The Scout Oath and Law are recited by every scout at the beginning of every meeting they attend. It is repeated over and over through some of their most formative years. Read back through that list, nowhere does it talk about nature, camping, hiking or survival. These are all “skills” that are taught in scouts but they are not the bedrock upon which the organization is built. Scouting is built upon the attributes of an honorable, God fearing man. Someone who will make a good father, husband and leader. Someone you can trust with your life, hopes and dreams.
Because of its high ideals, scouting can become the target of those who do not believe in what we stand for. Through all of the efforts to water down the message the program has remained steadfast and unwilling to compromise. Sure, there are areas where scouting has moved away from these ideals and is more politically correct. This is the nature of local volunteer leadership. But the core of the program is solid and will remain so if allowed to function as it has for the last 100+ years. Leaders come and go, but the tenets of the program stay the same.
What is more important is the training that a young man can receive. I know of more than a few scouts without a good father figure in their life. Boy Scouts allows them to live and work alongside men who are ready and willing to invest in them. The impact that can have on a young man whose own father has not invested in him is profound. He is encouraged to take on the traits listed above instead of those seen on television and in the movies.
All of this training does not make the man. Ultimately each scout must decide who he will be. I have known Eagle Scouts that used their rank and honor to get what they wanted. It was a line on a resume to them, a way to open a door. I have known scouts who did not earn the rank of Eagle that are quality men. Men of integrity and honor, who gladly invest in those around them. The program does not make the man but the program does give him an opportunity. It is the same with many aspects of our life.
We have access to enormous amounts of wisdom from Bible. We have volume after volume of historical reference and other writings. Wise men and women have shared their experiences with us in our current time and previous eras. These opportunities to learn from others and to hear from God do not in themselves make us into anything. It is how we internalize the knowledge. Allow it to change us, shape us, moderate our excess, temper our reactions, and to show us how to love each other.
We all need to take advantage of those people and programs in our lives that give us that little bump needed to get us there. To make us into the men and women that can make our world a better place. To teach the next generation what it means to be a man, a father, a husband and a leader. Please support the efforts of a Boy Scout Troop near you. You just might end up camping with a bunch of young men that will make you laugh and even cry. In the end they are looking to you for how to live. Show them.