Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Recently, the husband of an acquaintance died. I had not met the husband, and I don't know the woman particularly well, but death touches us. When I read the obituary, and all the attached messages, I was struck buy how much we save our praise to be shared after someone has left us. Part of this is because, like Joni Mitchell says in the song, "We don't know what we've got until its gone,"  part of it is that we have been taught not to speak ill of the dead, and part of it is that there are some things you don't say.
For instance, on a resume, you may write that you volunteer at a soup kitchen, but only in your eulogy will people tell how you gave your coat to a homeless man. And yet, these two acts of service are born from the same character trait. Wanting to be helpful. Or are they? There is a public requirement that we participate in the community. Politicians regularly are filmed working at soup kitchens, but most of us view this with skepticism. 

Are you volunteering at the soup kitchen so that you can put it on your resume? For some scouts, I have to say that is true. There are scouts that come to meetings only to get advancements. You know who they are, they know who they are--they are the scouts who camp enough to meet the camping requirement, and who serve in leadership positions that meet the leadership requirement, they volunteer to help younger scouts and  satisfy the EDGE method requirement. They are often pleasant young men from nice families, but they are in scouting to become Eagle Scouts. These scouts meet the requirements, and they can put Eagle on their resume. We watch them leave the troop with sadness in our hearts, because they are missing scouting.

Being a Boy Scout is more than meeting the requirements. The requirements of the program and the 12 points of the scout law are there to foster the mindset that promotes actions like giving a coat to a homeless man. The hope that Baden-Powell had, and your adult leaders have,  is that by being a scout, by earning the requirements and being asked to examine your behavior for examples of scout spirit, you will become your best self. The self that will adhere to the scout law even when it isn't seen by others. I hope with every scoutmaster conference that you will practice undocumented virtue, the kind that gets you no points, but earns you the silent admiration and approbation of those that know you. The kind that gets mentioned at your funeral.

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