* * *Each month, our ward does a pot-luck dinner as a way to socialize and fellowship each other. We usually have a theme--we've done Mexican, Italian, Dutch oven, BBQ, and Family Favorites. Since February is Scout month, I suggested the theme for February could be "Boy Scouts." It got announced as everything from "Boy Scout food" to "what scouts would eat." Without fail, this elicited laughs and suggestions of burnt (or raw) pancakes, ramen noodles, peanut butter sandwiches, or something else equally disgusting. The actual turnout on the night of the activity was, I think, the lowest we've ever had. I wondered if we scared people off....
* * *These experiences, and others, have got me thinking that a lot of people (including church members) don't have very high opinions of Scouts. They see them as irresponsible boys who will probably make a mess of things if not watched carefully. I am more than a little disturbed when I encounter such thoughts. Sure, maybe our boys are a little like that, but what really bothers me is when we treat our Scouts as if they were like that. Many people expect nothing better.
Robert Baden-Powell had a different idea. Consider these quotes from Scouting For Boys.
"A true Scout is looked up to by other boys and by grownups as a fellow who can be trusted, a fellow who will not fail to do his duty however risky and dangerous it may be, a fellow who is jolly and cheery no matter how great the difficulty before him."
"Living in camp for a Scout who knows the game is a simple matter. He knows how to make himself comfortable in a thousand small ways, and then, when he does come back to civilization, he enjoys it all the more for having seen the contrast. And even there, in the city, he can do very much more for himself than the ordinary mortal, who has never really learned to provide for his own wants."
"An old Scout is full of resource. He can find a way out of any difficulty or discomfort."There are many more examples but these will, I'm sure, show my point. Baden-Powell wanted his Scouts to be good. He wanted them to be a cut above the average boy. He wanted them to be a cut above the average man. And he expected it of them. Scouting for Boys is all about improving boys with the expectation that "a Scout is" something great.
"A camp is a roomy place. But there is no room in it for one chap, and that is the fellow who does not want to take his share in the many little odd jobs that have to be done. There is no room for the shirker or the grouser--well there is no room for them in the Boy Scouts at all, but least of all in camp."
"A Scout is very careful about fires. When he uses one he sees that it is well out before he leaves the place."
"Scouts are always tidy, whether in camp or not, as a matter of habit. If you are not tidy at home, you will not be tidy in camp; and if you're not tidy in camp you will be only a tenderfoot and no Scout."
"Every Scout must, of course, know how to cook his own meat and vegetables, and to make bread for himself, without regular cooking utensils."
"A good Scout... does not, like the ordinary boy, want to go and rob [birds] of their eggs, but he likes to watch how they hatch out their young and teach them to feed themselves and to fly."
"A Scout never damages a tree by hacking it with his knife or axe."
"Any boy can smoke--it is not such a very wonderful thing to do. But a Scout will not do it because he is not such a fool."
"It would be simply impossible for a man who drinks to be a Scout."
"The ordinary boy is apt to frown when working hard at physical exercises, but the Boy Scout is required to smile all the time."
"A Scout is at all times a gentleman."
"A Scout will never accept a 'tip', unless it is to pay for work done. It is often difficult to refuse, when it is offered, but for a Scout it is easy."
"No man worthy of the name will allow a woman to stand up if he has a seat. He will at once give it up to the woman and stand himself. As a Scout, you should set the example in this by being the first man in the carriage to do it."
I think we should remember that boys have a way of meeting expectations. If we treat them like irresponsible kids who can't do things right then that is what they will be. But if we expect them to be men, they will rise to the occasion. That is what Scouting is about. You take ordinary boys who are irresponsible, messy, and mean, put them in a uniform and a patrol, call them Scouts and tell them "A Scout Is...." And then you sit back and watch as the boy becomes a man.
Let's stop talking about our boys as they way they might be now, but as the Scouts we know they can become.