You are not supposed to be reading this post!
Instead of this post, you should be reading a long and thoroughly exposited post about why long-term thinking is important in a Scout Troop.
However, after I got gotten it all outlined and was a good 500 words into it, I sat back, not at all satisfied with what I was writing.
This actually happens more often than you might think! I have a folder full of drafts, half-written posts, and discarded ideas which did not make the standard I try to set for this blog. For this post in particular, I realized that I was unnecessarily rambling about what I wanted to say and not simply speaking from the heart.
The reason I say this is because it closely relates to what it is I really want to say. I’ve often spoken of Scouting as an art, rather than a science. I still hold this to be true. In speaking about the Patrol System, John Thurman of England hit it right on the head:
“The Patrol System is a system made up of ‘a lot of littles’. This is why there are difficulties about it; why there are problems; why it is not too easy to understand.”
When I was a 15-year old Patrol Leader (not really that long ago!), I first started learning about Traditional Scouting. I learned about the Patrol System, the importance of the wilderness, and of leadership and character from the writings of such great men as Baden-Powell, Bill Hillcourt, and John Thurman.
Inspired by this, I set about whole-heartedly in implementing these concepts in my Troop and Patrol. Right away, I could see some things start to work! However, much of it didn’t work like I hoped for one reason or another. I became discouraged by this. I expected complete and immediate success to attend my efforts, and this certainly didn’t happen.
The more I’ve read and learned about traditional Scouting, the more I’ve come to realize that a good Troop isn’t stamped out on an assembly line; it is crafted with care over time. It doesn’t shoot up like a skyscraper built with cranes and heavy machinery; it grows like a tree, slowly and strong, under dedicated caretakers.
Why does it work like this? Because a good Troop is really a micro-culture! The culture of a good Troop is made of a bunch of boys who have Scout Spirit! They encourage each other to grow in this and continue to pass it down to new Scouts. You may be fortunate to lead a Troop in a place where conditions are just right for Scout Spirit! More often than not, though, this Scout Spirit needs to be shared with Scouts over time; through example, encouragement, teaching, and enthusiasm.
It is these Troops that really make the biggest difference to the boys who are a part of them. A Troop can be ‘successful'; it can produce many Eagle Scouts, it can do all the activities and go through the drill. But without true Scout-Spirit, Scouting doesn’t really fulfill it’s potential.
So, if you are going through difficulties like I did, don’t get discouraged! Don’t give up on traditional Scouting and take the easy route to running a Scout Troop. Think in the long term! It is so very much worth all the time, effort, and frustrations!
Since the 100th anniversary of Scouting, a lot of people have been thinking about the future of Scouting: how it will change, what it will mean, etc. Ultimately, though, it’s not going to be decided by culture, organizations, or politicians. It’s going to be decided by you: the Scouts and Scouters.
The reason we have the amazing heritage we look back on is because many Scouts and Scouters built Troops with Scout Spirit! They planted them, watered them, and took care of them. They didn’t hang their hats on numbers or show. They concentrated on building and implementing a fantastic and timeless program. The more I read about the men who made Scouting great, the more I am inspired by their patience and dedication.
This post isn’t going to be “Five ways to long-term thinking”. That post hit the recycle bin. This message is a simple exhortation to the passionate Scout leader and Scouters out there.
Don’t get discouraged! Don’t give up traditional Scouting because it seems too hard or slow! This is about the future of many young men; this is about the future of this movement!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post!
*All images in the post are from historical editions of the Boys’ Life Magazine. Many thanks go to the journalists who chronicled Scouting’s History!