The Boy Scout Oath reads:
On my honor, I will do my best. To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
Earlier this week, as I prepared to leave work, I found my Eagle Scout ring that Sara gave to me for Christmas several years ago. I don’t wear it as much as I would like, but I put it on that day. At I look at it, I find myself reflecting on my time in Boy Scouts. Was it just a club to be in if you weren’t an athlete? Did Boy Scouts give my parents free childcare? Do I carry the principals with me?
As I look back at my time as a scout, I remember many of my fondest childhood memories. Unfortunately, we didn’t live Christ-centered lives in those years. That has changed in the last 11 years though. We try our best to live Christ-centered lives. I was born again when I was eleven, but I wouldn’t say I was ever around a Bible believing, Christ-centered, gospel teaching church. For me, my church was the Boy Scouts. (Please bear with me as I explain)
I’m not saying at all that Boy Scouts is a substitute for church. Quite the contrary, I have seen how much difference a good Bible teaching church is to us and our children. As I watch my children grow up, I see Christ at work in their lives and their faithfulness to him. That’s something I never got as a child. The only time we prayed was for meals at holidays. The only time the Bible came out was for Sunday church. I saw plenty during the week that I now know was contrary to Biblical teaching. And then there’s scouting.
What scouting did for me
The Boy Scouts taught me many of those things that my church or family didn’t. The Boy Scouts isn’t specifically a faith based organization. However, Biblical ideals and principals were taught. Also, one of the required/strongly recommended items to always include in our gear was a small Bible–usually a New Testament–and we used them.
One of the common activities to nearly all camping grips was the campfire program. The program nearly always either started or ended with a prayer. We rarely prayed together as a family at home. On the organized trips (camporees–district/council organized group camps–and summer camp), there was always a non-denominational chapel service on Sunday morning. Our troop nearly always participated and it was 100% participation.
Ingenuity and improvisation
One of the more time-consuming/frustrating activities in camping is packing. What will I need? Is the weather going to be bad? How do I get all of this into THAT pack? We always camped in tents, so space was at a premium. So, we had to get everything we needed into a single backpack. There were also supplies in the troop trailer, but that was it. If we made it out to the wilderness and forgot something, we had to make do. We sometimes had to use hatchets as hammers; sticks as shovels; insects as instruments. (You see what I did there? Yeah, we didn’t use insects, but I couldn’t think of something else.) The Boy Scout’s knife and mess kit always served multiple purposes and were the absolute required item.
Manhood and leadership
Most importantly, Boy Scouts taught us how to be men. I’m not talking about grunting, scratching or being what the world calls “manly men”. No, we learned how to be well-rounded men and gentlemen. Granted, we were always covered in dirt, belching or worse, but we learned how to treat others. As young men, we learned the importance of brotherhood. We did not permit bullying and hazing or other disrespectful behavior. However, the adults did not enforce the rules–the scouts did. Senior scouts taught younger scouts. Those younger scouts would learn and grow to become seniors themselves and pass down the same principals. We learned to lead and govern ourselves.
Boy Scouts did not create bosses, rather it created leaders. We learned what it meant to be servant leaders or leaders by example. Adult leaders and senior scouts did not bark out orders to the younger boys. Leaders always jumped in first. Showed everyone else how things were to be done. A senior scout unwilling to do the dirty work, rarely inspired others to do it either. However, the senior scout did not do all the work. He showed others and helped when necessary. He was responsible for keeping things running smoothly, so he had to be a jack of all trades of sorts.
Adjusting to new leadership
Because of our many different personalities, we sometimes struggled with adapting to new leadership. One Senior Patrol Leader may be an expert in pioneering (knot-tying, etc). Another may be strongest in a quartermaster roll (using, organizing gear). Yet another, administration. As a result, the troop was always evolving. For a few years, it may be a pioneering focused troop, and for another few years, administration. I had the benefit to learn under many different types of leaders. So, today, those skills I still where I am strongest are knots, fire building (and control) and organizing tools, etc.
A well rounded scout
Scouting molded us into well-rounded individuals and future leaders. Leadership isn’t always front and center. Sometimes it’s as simple as setting an example. Even today, I still see the influence of Boy Scouts in my life and who I am. It’s impossible to detail everything I learned and I can unfortunately no longer in good conscience support the Boy Scouts. However, for many, there is still value to be found in similar organizations–such as Trail Life Boys. I recommend a good church for the Gospel. However, there is benefit in a program like Trail Life Boys–a similar program made me who I am after all!