Monday, January 14, 2013

Leaving a Legacy

One of the lessons taught at Wood Badge is about Leaving a Legacy. It uses the movie Mr. Holland's Opus to make the point. In that movie, Mr. Holland, the high school music teacher is honored at his retirement with a surprise concert featuring music he wrote, performed by many of his former students. One of those students makes the comment that they were his masterpiece; that his real legacy was in the lives of the people he touched.

I've been thinking about that this morning and what my legacy will be. 

When I went to Wood Badge, the vision that motivated me, and the ticket I worked to help me realize that vision, was aimed at having a real, functioning, thriving Venturing crew that would persist after I had gone.
I didn't feel like I got there by the time I was called to something else. I know I made progress, but I also know there are things I could have done better. I frequently think of things that I wish I had done. At the same time, however, I honestly felt like I was doing everything I could at the time.

At church yesterday I heard something that made me feel like everything I have worked for has already been erased.

The young men's president announced (in a combined Aaronic priesthood meeting) that they were going to take all the young men on an overnight activity to the bishop's cabin. It sounds like a great activity. And I am thrilled that they will be going out and doing something.

I just have a couple problems with it. First, it seems to have been planned entirely by the adults, with no youth involvement. When it was announced by the adults yesterday, it was the first time the youth had heard about it. I suspect that the adults will do everything at the activity, too. I guarantee that the bishop isn't going to wait around for the youth to start cooking dinner. He's the kind of person who won't sit by when there's work to be done. What that means, though, is that the youth will have absolutely no responsibility here. All that will be expected of them is to show up and play.

The second problem I have is that this "camp" is replacing the district sponsored winter camp. They will be going to the cabin just one week after the camp. I know the YM president had the information about winter camp. I was there when he got it. But he didn't even give the youth the option to go to the winter camp. He didn't even mention it. In fact, when he announced the cabin trip he made the comment that "it's better than camping in the snow."

Now, I wouldn't have a problem taking the Venturers to the cabin at the same time the Scouts were going to the winter camp, but to replace the scout's camp with this tells me that Scouting simply isn't important to the adult leaders. There are other things that tell me that, as well. And I'm sure the youth see it, too. 

In this one two-minute experience (combined with the knowledge of other things) I could see, in my mind's eye, a giant eraser wiping out everything I worked for for four years. As if nothing I have done matters in the least. It was devastating.

Now, maybe I'm being a little dramatic. Maybe it won't be as bad as I imagine. I'm sure there is a plan behind this trip that I don't know about. Maybe it's exactly what the boys need. But I still worry.
Of course, one thing about Leaving a Legacy is that our real legacy isn't always what we had imagined in the beginning. Right now, there are two young men serving the Lord as missionaries in Brazil. I am clinging to the hope that something I did will live on in them and in their service. I cling to the hope that for them, at least, my efforts were not wasted.


  1. You're not alone - I know exactly how you feel. Next month marks my 5-year anniversary in my calling as Scoutmaster. I've been told I have at least 2 more years, which is great. My focus over those two years? 1) Continuing to push as much as possible for boy-led and 2) Build up an ecosystem as much as I can.

    The thing that keeps me up at night is exactly what you've described. I want the program to still be thriving when my 6-year-old son makes his way to it. I always appreciate it when people compliment me on how I'm doing, but I really wish they could compliment the program. It should be a great program with a solid Scoutmaster. Not just a great Scoutmaster.

    So, my next two years will be spent begging, pleading and otherwise talking with the Bishopric, parents and everyone else in the Ward who will listen to ensure a solid committee and culture of commitment is built to support things when I'm eventually released.

    In the meantime I'll continue to lose sleep over it.

  2. Slight edit: "All that will be expected of them is to show up and play along."

    I don't know why, but as a culture, we have a real problem with trusting boys who weekly recite that they are trustworthy. Maybe it's because we don't trust ourselves enough (speaking of adults collectively and not individually) to train them right in the first place, and continually build on and reinforce that training. After all, Scouting is over at 14, unless of course they didn't get the Badge, then Scouting merely = nagging.

    The sad part is, some who would choose to attend an activity of their own choosing will be compelled to attend a designated "priesthood activity" that they have no real stake in, and will be the more bitter for it. Even more sad is well-meaning, but misguided adults who cannot see Elder Holland's vision of Scouting as Priesthood, and whose substitute program can't hold a candle to the holistic whole-boy (mind/body/spirit) system they're turning down.

    I think in typing this up that I realize now why the boys like playing basketball so much - minimal interference from the grown-ups in the room.

  3. I have started a post like this a million times and fear of all my hard work going away is what stops me. That being said relationships we have with boys (and especially your two missionaries) is sometime all we will come away with - which is more than enough. My boys at times have wanted to cancel plans when I very occasionally can't come to meetings. I tell them to continue with what they have planned because some day I won't be there. This is their program!!!

    As far as Eric's comment, I think we have higher expectations of our boys hence some don't want to release them. Sacrament would be different is a boy led it. A Scout meeting though is OK to not be perfect.

  4. I just finished reading a book about Scouting. The author finished up by retelling the story of William Boyce lost in the fog and being helped by a Scout. He relates the result of Scouting coming to America and then becoming the activity arm of the Aaronic priesthood. Then he says, "I don't believe that young boy in the fog ever knew what a difference he made...You may see some of the results of your work... but chances are you'll never know how much of a difference you've made."

    It sucks to work so hard, then feel like it all goes to naught. I like that long-term prespective, as well as the reminder that even if we touch one boy, it is worth the work (just like the scripture about , "..if ye bring but one soul unto me...")