Monday, August 29, 2011

I used to be a... Bear!

I'm back from the first weekend of Wood Badge. I somehow ended up being the troop guide to the Bear patrol. I was told that we should be a guide to a patrol other than the one we were in, but somehow I managed it.

What a great experience this has been, although, I must say that it's quite different from the perspective of staff.

As a participant, everything was new and exciting. I was constantly thinking about what I needed to learn and what I could do to improve Scouting within my circle of influence. It was an incredibly emotional experience.

This time around, I've been focused not on myself or my own leadership responsibilities, but on the participants. Am I doing everything I can to make their experience as good as it can be? Instead of internalizing the lessons and thinking of how I can use them, I'm watching my patrol and trying to judge their reactions. Instead of developing my own ticket, I'm giving feedback on theirs. I wonder, are they getting the same things I did? What is affecting them? Are they really here to learn or are they just going through the motions? If they didn't want to come at first, has that changed?

I can't know exactly what they are thinking. I hope it has gone well for them. I hope it has been a great experience. I worry that a couple of presentations and activities fell flat, but that could be a result of my different perspective.

Even with these differences, I wouldn't miss it for the world. Even if I did have to play a dyslexic granddaughter in a skit revolving around the story of Rindercella. I even had to slop my dripper. But it sure was fun. I can't wait for next weekend.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to Gilwell, happy land!

Tonight I am headed back to Gilwell. I'm going over tonight so I can be on-site to help set up first thing Wednesday morning. Participants arrive for the start of Wood Badge on Thursday. I can't believe it's really here already!

I am feeling quite a mix of emotions, and for some reason I feel the need to write them out. Perhaps I just need to try to make sense of them all.

First, I am really, really excited. I absolutely loved my Wood Badge course two years ago. It was one of the best and most uplifting/spiritual experiences of my life. I can't explain why, but it was. So, I am excited to return to that.

At the same time, I'm pretty nervous. Going as a staff member is a little different from going as a participant. Then I didn't know what to expect. This time I do. But now I am also partly responsible for making this a fantastic experience for the participants. As a troop guide, I will be presenting several lessons to my patrol (especially the first weekend). I've spent quite a bit of time getting them ready and practicing. I think I'm prepared, but still I wonder what I'm missing. I worry that I won't teach them as well as they should be done.

In addition to the lessons, I will likely be the go-to person for my patrol for any questions about nearly everything. From the schedule, to their responsibilities, to their tickets. Possibly more I can't anticipate. I worry that I won't be able to answer everything, that I won't be the guide they will need.

I also worry about the social aspect of the course. I've never been a very social person. I don't make friends easily. I make conversation even less easily. And yet I feel as if I need to be outgoing and sociable. I need to be friendly and cheerful--everything a Scout should be. I hope I can do that. I need to let go of my inhibitions and not be afraid to have fun, to speak up, to be outgoing. But I worry that when I get in that big crowd that I'll withdraw inside myself and make a mess of things. It's happened before. There's a good chance I'll let it happen again. At the same time, I can see the possibility that this course will bring me new friends and acquaintances that I will treasure, and I look forward to that. I want that association that comes through shared interests and experiences. Like I said before, my Wood Badge course was one of the best experiences of my life, and I expect this one to be just as good.

And then I wonder if I have packed everything I need. I'm sure I'll forget something. Will it be something personal I can make do without for a few days? Will it be something for one of my lessons? What is it? I'm sure I'll be okay. I hope. At least I'm not in charge of food. That could be a disaster.

I will also miss my wife. I joked with her that I'll miss her when I have the time. I know I'll be busy and will not always be thinking about what she needs. But I also know that any quiet moments to myself will bring my thoughts around to her. And I know she will miss me. It will be especially hard for her to have me away for so long, and that pains me. I want her to have everything, but I won't be able to be there for her. But she is supportive and loving and wants me to go. I will get to see her tomorrow night for our staff dinner and beading ceremony where they will present a third bead to the staff.

I'm excited. I'm grateful for this opportunity. I'm also nervous. But, whatever happens, I'll be back at Gilwell. And that is good.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August Round Table

We had a special treat for our August Round Table. The young man in my ward who earned his Silver Award came and spoke to us about the Venturing awards, why he wanted to do them, and what we can do to get young men (and leaders) interested in the Venturing program.

We then spent a while talking about our yearly planning. Since we've all just done our big activities for the summer, it's time to start planning for next year. We talked about the process and how to make it work.

I'm especially glad my young man was there. Now he'll be able to better lead us in our planning. Maybe I should have him come to Round Table more often....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

River Trip

I've wanted to post about this for a couple days now, I just haven't been sure how to do it.

We took our Venturing Crew on a camp/river trip last weekend. We've been planning this trip for months. We floated down the Green river from Flaming Gorge Dam to Little Hole. It is a very popular spot, both for rafters and fishermen.

We went up on Thursday evening and set up camp. I finally got my wish to have the young men do all the cooking, except for the peach cobbler they requested from me. (Of course, cooking is really easy when you do a can of beef stew for dinner, cold cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch.)

We spent most of the day on Friday rafting the river. That evening, the boys cooked a fantastic dinner of Dutch oven chicken and potatoes, cornbread, and chocolate cherry cobbler. Later, we sat around the campfire and shared stories. Scary stories, jokes, even a few true stories from leaders' LDS missions.

We got up Saturday morning and headed back to town. It was a pretty good trip. Mostly.

The troubles were with the rafting. Now, this section of the river does not have any really serious rapids. It's pretty tame, actually. Which means that the fun thing to do along the way is to have a water fight. Everybody knew going in that we would get wet. That was the plan. Everyone knew it.

We had one young man, however, who didn't want to get wet. At all. "Why can't we just casually float down the river and enjoy the scenery?" he asked. Well, after a while the water fights stopped and we did just that. I really think the other guys were trying to be nice and gave a little to make his trip more enjoyable.

As far as I could tell, though, he didn't even like the casual trip. He didn't seem to be enjoying the scenery. He just complained. He didn't even want to come, he said, but his mom made him. He would rather be at home playing video games. "Why is it that we can have a water fight where we could get hypothermia and die but we can't have a paintball fight?" It was pretty tiring.

After we finished the first run we ate lunch and went back for a second run. This time, the other guys were going to have a water fight. That's what they came for. They gave in on the first run, but not this one. Sure enough, we got wet. And we heard complaints from the one young man the entire time, with one exception.

At one point, we came up on another rafting party, this one containing young women. I saw our complainer, who didn't want to get wet, sitting up on the side of the raft with his leg dangling in the water. Later that evening as we were going to bed, I overheard one of the other boys ask this young man if he had any fun. The answer was no. The first boy persisted, saying he thought it looked like he was having fun. "I was just pretending to have fun because of the girls. I was really thinking that I'd rather be home playing [some stupid video game]."

This just confirmed in my mind what I suspected the whole time. I think if he had just been willing to loosen up and join in that he would have had the time of his life. But he refused.

What do you do with a young man who refuses to be a part of the group? Someone who is so determined NOT to enjoy the activity that he refuses to let himself have fun? What can you do?

But that seems to be pretty typical with this young man. He moved into the ward a few months ago, so he doesn't have the same connection with the others that they all have. Naturally, he is having a hard time fitting in. He seems to want to fit in, but only if everyone else bends to fit in with him. He is so far unwilling to give even an inch in order to belong. And I think it's having a negative effect on the others. Toward the end of the second river run, one of the other boys told me they thought it would be more fun. Apparently, a single poor attitude dampened the entire trip.

I don't want to be angry or upset with this young man. I know he has different interests from the others. But I see everyone else trying, at least a little, to include him. I don't see that from him. And I don't know what to do about it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New LDS Scouting resources

Okay, so I'm not really sure all of them are that new, but I just found out about them. The LDS church website has added a bunch of information regarding Scouting and its relationship to the Aaronic Priesthood.

Included is information about what makes a trained leader, safety guidelines, the individual programs, the On My Honor award, Philmont, Scouting in the news, and teachings from the Prophets.

Also, an updated version of the LDS Scouting handbook.

If there was ever any thought that the church was moving away from Scouting, the resources available here should put that to rest.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

As a Venturer, I promise... to seek... adventure in our world.

Most people are familiar with the Scout Oath. Slightly less well known is the oath Venturers take upon joining a crew:
As a Venturer, I promise to do my duty to God and help strengthen America, to help others, and to seek truth, fairness, and adventure in our world.
There is also a Venturing Code, which expands these ideas a bit. It talks about acquiring the "Venturing attitude that seeks the truth in all things and adventure on the frontiers of our changing world."

Now, I haven't been as good as I should have been about getting my young men to recite the Venturing Oath at each meeting. We've been hit and miss and best. So I was perhaps a bit surprised when one of my young men used it on me last night.

We went down to the community recreation center to do swim tests for an upcoming activity. We did the test first thing and then spent the rest of the night having fun. We had some swimming races. We went down the water slide (which is a lot faster than it looks). And then someone suggested the high dive.

I hate to admit this but, I'm mildly afraid of heights. Jumping off the high dive was not my idea of fun. And at first, I resisted. I didn't have to dive, they said--just jump. Still, I resisted. Then this young man (Eagle Scout, Silver Award recipient, OA member, and BSA lifeguard) told me that I had made a promise to "seek adventure in our world." And there was no better place to begin than with the high dive.

What do you say to that? If I, as their adult leader won't live up to the ideals how can I expect them to. So, I climbed the ladder, walked out onto the diving board (only mildly freaking out on the inside) and jumped.

In a previous post I mentioned a quote from Robert Baden-Powell: "The Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself." I have long thought it was important to participate with the young men, and take part in their activities. You can't just stand on the sidelines and watch. You have to jump in with them.

This experience reminded me of another point. We sometimes have to try new things. Sometimes they are things we don't really want to do. The experience of trying new things can be scary. It can be unpleasant. But it can also open up to us a world of adventure. And that can be wonderful.

I think one of the unwritten purposes of Scouting is to give young men experience in a wide variety of activities. To open them up to new possibilities and new adventures. As leaders, we shouldn't be afraid of suggesting and encouraging new activities. We should lovingly encourage and persuade our youth to try new things. To seek "adventure in our world."