Bill Eddleman, Scoutmaster, Troop 16
Among the stories my late uncle told about my great-grandfather (his
grandfather) was of the time Great-Grandpa loaned money to a neighbor, and
sealed the agreement with a handshake. Great-Grandpa’s son, my
grandfather, couldn’t quite accept this and said, “Pa, you have no paper
for the money you loaned Ted!” Great-Grandpa answered, “Ted’s word is
worth all the world’s paper!”
I think that few adults would trust their neighbors to that degree today, and what a sadder world we live in because for many of us our word is not our bond. If a Boy Scout truly lives the first point of the Scout Law, “A Scout is Trustworthy,” his word should be as valued as that of my Great-Grandfather’s neighbor Ted. This means he should be expected to tell the truth, to live up to his promises, to be someone who can be relied upon, and to admit to his mistakes and learn from them. Our troop learned a little lesson in trustworthiness after our last campout, and I think we will all strive to do better and be more trustworthy next time. Just think if everyone lived that simple promise. Wouldn’t the world be a better place!
I want to relate to you a story of an exceptional American. Mr. Abie Abraham was born to Syrian immigrant parents, and was a career army soldier stationed in the Philippines at the time of the Japanese invasion. Mr. Abraham was captured at the surrender of Bataan, and survived the horrific Bataan Death March to be imprisoned by the Japanese with thousands of other U. S. and Filipino soldiers in Cabanatuan Prison Camp. What set Mr. Abraham apart, though, was his writing down, on secreted scraps of paper, information about the U. S. prisoners he met, and many he helped to bury as they died of disease and poor treatment in the camp. When he no longer had paper, he memorized the burial sites of his comrades. After World War II, he was charged by Gen. Douglas MacArthur with disinterring and moving U. S. soldiers to a military cemetery in Manila. His meticulous records and memory allowed him to do this for many fallen comrades. Today, Mr. Abraham, approaching age 90, still participates in veteran's affairs and volunteers at a VA hospital in his native Pennsylvania. Abie Abraham was and is exceptionally loyal to our country and to his fellow soldiers.
Most Boy Scouts will never be called upon to show their loyalty to their family, friends, and nation as much as has Mr. Abraham. Nonetheless, loyalty, the second point of the Scout Law, is something you can strive for every day--to your family, your school, and your Scout leaders. You can show your loyalty to our country by respecting the flag and government, and by participating in the democratic process. Work to make things better where you can, and take the opportunity to voice your concerns and work within the system to make changes. Finally, the success of our troop also depends on your pitching in and helping out, and your support of your patrol and troop leaders and fellow scouts. Be loyal to the troop, and we will all enjoy the benefits!
“If I were asked what is the prevailing vice in the world I
should say--Selfishness. You may not agree with this at first sight, but
look into it and I believe you will come to the same conclusion. Most
crimes, as recognised by law, come from the indulgence of selfishness,
from a desire to acquire, to defeat, or to wreak vengeance. The average
man will gladly give a contribution to feed the poor and will feel
satisfied that he has then done his duty, but he is not going to dock
himself of his own food and good wine to effect a saving for that
---Lord Robert Baden-Powell in
Aids to Scoutmastership
Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the world Boy Scouting movement, began a chapter on “Service to Others” with these words. This is the heart of the third point of the Scout Law -- “Helpful.” Service has been a cornerstone of Scouting since the beginning, as embodied in the portion of the Scout Oath that states, “...To help other people at all times;...”, the Scout Law, “Be Prepared”, and the Scout Slogan, “Do a Good Turn Daily”. These three ideals work together in that we promise to help in the Oath, we learn how to help by being prepared, and we help because we care about people by doing a good turn. Indeed, Boy Scouting came to America because of a good turn. A nameless scout helped a U. S. businessman, William Boyce, find his hotel on a foggy night in London. Boyce was curious when the boy would not take money for his good turn, so he learned more about the Scouting movement as a result, and helped start it in America.
Once upon a time, when I was a sullen teenager, I was walking down the sidewalk in a local shopping center with my dad. We passed someone I knew from school, and for whom I didn’t particularly care. In typical sullen teenager fashion, I didn’t say anything as we passed, or even acknowledge him. My dad said “Hello” as we passed. My dad then asked me, “Don’t you know him from school?” “Yes,” I replied, “But I don’t like him.” My dad then responded, “You should always be friendly, even to those you don’t especially like. Let me tell you about my friend Joe.”
“One day Joe and I were walking down the sidewalk, and he spotted someone at the far end of the street. Joe said he couldn’t stand that fellow, and that he was the worst, most obnoxious, low-down so-and-so he knew or knew about. He absolutely despised this guy. Soon, it became obvious that the man was going to walk right by us. As we came to the man, and as I expected Joe to either ignore him or say something unflattering or worse, Joe said, ‘Why hello, buddy, how are you? It’s good to see you.” He shook hands with the man, and we went on our way.” My dad was surprised, but he said Joe exhibited one of the basic laws of how we should behave toward others. Be friendly whether you like people or not, or whether there is anything in it for you or not.
The fourth point of the Scout Law is “friendly”. A Scout should be a friend to all and a brother to all other Scouts (whether you like them personally or not). He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different than his own. (Notice that I didn’t say you have to agree with them—just respect them.) I don’t know if my dad’s friend Joe was ever a Boy Scout, but I do know that he was a firm practitioner of the fourth point of the Scout Law. Let’s try and live up to that point, and be friendly to all!
A couple of years ago, I was talking with another adult Scout leader from another troop in town. He asked about the boys in Troop 16, and I mentioned some of the older Scouts that he might have met at OA events or at Summer Camp (all of whom are no longer active in the troop as Scouts because they are now over 18). Two of them he remembered very well. Why did he remember them? Because he is a Merit Badge Councilor for one of the Eagle required badges. The thing that made the biggest impression on him was how courteous and well-prepared the boys were when they met with him to work on their badges. Of course, previous Scoutmasters get the credit for this, but I’d like to hope we can keep it up.
The fifth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is courteous”. Being polite and courteous shows that you are concerned and aware of other’s feelings, and not just your own. Scouts are polite to everyone, regardless of whether the other people are younger or older. Why? Because good manners makes it easier for all people to get along. Scouts are also gentlemen, open doors for others, or give up their seats for an elderly person, pregnant woman, or anyone who might need it more than they do. They do their share of the work at home in a pleasant manner. They say “Please” and “Thank you”; or “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry” whenever it is appropriate. Being courteous just boils down to the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” Follow this as a Scout, and you will have good habits that will stay with you the rest of your life.
Recently I had the pleasure of teaching Nature to Cub Scouts at summer day
camp. One of our activities was building a water scope, which allows
someone to view animals underwater without interference from surface glare
or ripples. The boys, adult leaders, and I were viewing all sorts of neat
critters along the edge of the lake, when one of the boys yelled that
there was a snake. I went to where he was, and found a tiny water snake,
probably hatched this past spring. Amidst all the exclamations of “Cool!”
I made sure most of the boys got to see this harmless little snake. As you
might guess, as soon as I left the area, one of the boys threw a rock at
the snake. I can only hope it got away and wasn’t crunched.
The sixth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is Kind.” By my definition, this youngster wasn’t obeying this point of the Law, although he could be excused for being young and ignorant of the effects of his actions. Kindness extends to people, but also to animals and to the environment. In fact, the original statement of this point of the law by Lord Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting, was “A Scout is a friend to animals.” A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living being. He obeys the rules of Leave No Trace camping, or posted rules on public land. Now, some of you are hunters or may be when you get older. Are you obeying the Scout Law?
The key words in this point of the Law are, “without good reason.” A Scout does not hurt or kill without reason. If you’re going hunting for food, or to kill pests that are destroying property, or are hunting animals that are dangerous to man, you’re not hunting without reason. So, you are not violating the Scout Law. The young Cub Scout in my story intended to hurt the snake without any reason, because no one was threatened by it. This is what I told himdon’t hurt a snake unless it is threatening someone. I hope he learned a lesson and will be kind next time!
One day when I was about the age that most of you are now, I was walking home from school. Normally, I took the school bus, but I had an after-school activity, and the walk home was only about ½ mile. As I was walking along the road, a car pulled over and a gentleman asked if I needed a ride. Since I didn’t know this man, I refused. The man said “ok,” and then drove on. Now, what if the man had insisted that I get in the car with him? Would I have, or would I have refused? The answer of course, is that I would have refused, since I didn’t know him.
This leads me to the 7th point of the Scout Law. A Scout is Obedient. This means that a Scout respects the laws of his community and nation. He obeys those laws and behaves in a way that will make his community proud. If he feels that these laws are wrong, he attempts to change them rather than simply to disobey. A Scout also obeys his parents and Scout leaders and other adults. However, I might add that obedience should only go so far as to cover requests from adults you know AND trust, or that obviously have your safety and well-being in mind. Blind obedience is NOT what the Scout Law implies. Never obey a request from an adult that is strange or unusual to you, or that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you are not sure, ask others. The reason behind this point is to insure that a good Scout obeys the lawful and common-sense requests of his parents, other adults and the community through the laws and the Constitution, not to have them obey mindlessly.
("After All" by Henry Lawson)
The eighth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is Cheerful”. He makes others happy and always looks at the brighter side of life. He always approaches every situation and every problem with a smile. He is happy and tries to make others happy, even when the situation is such that nothing can be happy about it. He looks on the brighter side of things, noting that "things could be worse". In chores and routine things, the Scout tries to find ways in doing them which would achieve the goal yet leave everyone fulfilled.
It is not the purpose of this point to force every Scout to be happy about everything. Things occur and as human beings, we each have differing ways of dealing with those events and sharing our emotions about them.
Henry Lawson is the best-known of Australian poets, and I think this poem
of his, entitled “After All,” sums up what we should know about being
The brooding ghosts of this dark night have gone from the bush and town;
My spirit revives in the morning breeze,
though it died when the sun went down;
The river is high and the stream is strong,
and the grass is green and tall,
And I fain would think that this world of ours is a good world after all.
The light of passion in dreamy eyes, and a page of truth well read,
The glorious thrill in a heart grown cold of the spirit once thought dead,
A song that goes to a comrade's heart, and a tear of pride let fall --
And my soul is strong! and the world to me is a grand world after all!
Let our enemies go by their old dull tracks,
and theirs be the fault or shame
(The man is bitter against the world who has only himself to blame);
Let the darkest side of the past be dark, and only the good recall;
For I must believe that the world to me, is a kind world after all.
It well may be that I saw too plain, and it may be I was blind;
But I'll keep my face to the dawning light,
though the devil may stand behind!
Though the devil may stand behind my back, I'll not see his shadow fall,
But read the signs in the morning stars of a good world after all.
Rest, for my eyes are weary now -- I have driven the worst away --
The ghost of the man that I might have been is gone from my heart to-day;
We'll live for life and the best it brings till our twilight shadows fall;
My heart grows brave, and the world to me is a good world after all.
In my early childhood, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President, and has been one of my heroes ever since. There are many stories told about President Eisenhower, but one that stands out to me occurred when he was the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II. General Eisenhower was touring an Allied base in France, including the mess hall. It was mealtime, so Eisenhower was persuaded by the Commanding Officer of the base to sample the food. Although he asked for small portions, the servers, impressed by their guest, loaded down his tray. He figured he would just eat a few bites and then leave, but as he walked across the mess hall to sit down to eat, he noticed a sign posted on the wall. The sign said, “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” General Eisenhower, always setting the example for his men, sat there until he had eaten every bite.
I have often thought of this story ever since—especially as I saw friends and others take good food, and then throw it away because they didn’t like it—or for no reason whatsoever. This story does not just relate to food, though, but to all resources. Making full use of all your resources without being wasteful, whether they are food, money, time, or property, is a part of being thrifty—the 9th point of the Scout Law.
Many Scouts think that “thrifty” just refers to being carefully with money. A Scout does work to pay his own way and to help others in the most efficient way possible. He saves for unforeseen needs—one example being raising funds to pay for campouts or summer camp. But, thrifty also relates to other resources. A Scout protects and conserves natural resources, and does not waste them needlessly. He carefully uses time and property—and respects them if they are not his own. So—use whatever you need and don’t waste it. You will be following the example of President Eisenhower, and also obeying this point of the Scout Law.
Does anyone know what was going on in North Dakota 200 years ago today? If any of you guessed that Lewis and Clark had reached that area, then you are correct. In fact, in early November 1804, they began building on the site they named “Fort Mandan,” and continued for the next couple of weeks. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and their crew, were going up the river to explore and map the country recently purchased from France; record what plants, animals, and people they encountered; make peace and set up trading possibilities with the natives; and find what was thought to be an easy route to the Pacific Ocean. Do you think just anyone would have gone along with Lewis and Clark? Probably not. It took someone of strength, of skill, of curiosity, and of bravery to sign on with the expedition. After all, the threats from wild rivers, hostile people, wild animals, disease, and the unknown were enough to keep most people from even thinking about it. That is, the Corps of Discovery members were brave, and that bravery allowed all but one of the members to return safely.
When most of us think about bravery, we think about being cool in the face of some immediate, life-threatening situation. However, most of us will rarely, if ever, be in such a situation. But, there is a different kind of bravery all of us will have to have to get through life—the bravery to do the right thing, even if it’s not the popular thing or if it might embarrass us; to keep going when things are tough, to do what we don’t want to do, but have to do. This is the kind of bravery that means you will follow your heart, and not the pressure to go along with everyone else because you feel threatened or laughed at. The Corps of Discovery did what had to be done, the everyday sort of bravery, a lot more than they had to face immediate danger. That is why we admire them and celebrate their accomplishment today. So, obey the 10th point of the Scout Law. Be brave, and you will feel that you’ve done your duty, and lived true to your conscience.
I know is a very intelligent, seemingly articulate personwith one
exception. This person sprinkles dirty words through just about everything
they say. As a result, many people are very uncomfortable being around
this person, and few take the person seriously. Why do you think this is
so? A Boy Scout swears to be be clean as the 11th point of the Scout Law.
Most of you probably think this means you should do things like take a
bath or shower, dress neatly, and remember to change your underwear
regularly. We know that being dirty in body can lead to poor health, and
result in a lack of self respect and respect from those around you. But,
being clean is more than this. A Scout keeps his body AND his mind fit and
clean. A Scout helps keep his home and community clean. He goes around
with those who believe in living by these same ideals. This helps to
prevent poor health of your spirit, and keep your mind clean. So, next
time you encounter someone who uses excessive profanity, don’t encourage
them. Stay clean, and you’ll feel better about yourself and encourage
others to do the same!
I need go no farther than our own troop for an example of “Reverent.” Our crew that went to Double H this summer had some challenging times. On one particular day, the crew found what they thought to be their campsite with its water tank. There was a dead elk carcass against it, and lots of bear sign. They sent out a scouting party to find another tank, only to hear thunder and see lightning off in the distance, along with ominous clouds, heading for them. The scouting party found an emergency site, which the crew headed toward. Quickly, and in an organized manner, the crew worked to set up camp, prepare a bear-proof site, put things in the bear bag, and cook supper. The lightning was popping within two miles, and the rain soon began. I’ll let Mr. Williams’ words continue: “I think that those that had been through a storm or two were worried – I know I was. I was hurrying the guys to get things done and when the rain finally started I’d done everything that I knew to do. However, Eric McLain thought of what I didn’t – he led the part of the crew who weren’t cooking in a Rosary. Although we got rain, we missed the worst of the storm.” Despite the tense nature of the situation, Eric was living the 12th point of the Scout Law. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. Even though he may not agree with them, he respects the beliefs of others. I am always proud of you guys when I hear stories like this. We adults like to think we are teaching you these values, and when we see things like Eric leading the Rosary, we know we have.
PAY IT FORWARD
Most of you will recall a movie of a couple of years ago called Pay it Forward. The basic plot of this movie concerned a boy who developed a plan to improve the world. This involved him doing good deeds for three other people, with the stipulation that they had to “pay it forward” by doing good deeds for three other people. Thus, the benefits would eventually go to millions of people from the first three good deeds
Today I’m taking up the job of Scoutmaster of Troop 16. Some of you may think this is a task that you would never do, because you are too busy, think you don’t have the talents to do the job, or are already involved with other youth programs. I like to think one of the reasons I’m up here in this job is because I’m paying it forward. My dad was willing to volunteer when I was a Cub Scout and be “Den Mother” for my den, when not enough mothers were available to do it. He continued to do this, even after I lost interest in Scouting at the Webelos stage. Although I lost interest at the time, he instilled something in me: that you step up when your children need for you to help out.
In encourage all of you adults to “pay it forward.” We expect, indeed we hope, that all of our sons will grow up to be good citizens and good people. We have to provide the example, though, and step up to help them do this. I also challenge all of you boys to remember this when you have children in Scouting. Step in to help out, and pay it forward!
George Washington Lived by the Scout Law
Civility & Decent Behaviour
In Company and Conversation"
This week marks President’s Day, when we celebrate the birthday of George Washington. We can still learn much from this man, the greatest of our early leaders. For example, if you think the Scout Law was something that Lord Baden-Powell developed for Scouting, think again. Washington lived by 110 rules for polite behavior, many of which correspond to the points of the Scout Law. These maxims originated in the late sixteenth century in France and were popularly circulated during Washington's time. Washington wrote out a copy of the 110 Rules in his school book in 1744 when he was about sixteen-years old, and lived by them throughout his life. A few selected ones that correspond to the points of the Scout Law are:
82d Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep your Promise.
3d Shew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.
45th Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.
66th Be not forward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it's a time to Converse.
1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
21st: Reproach none for the Infirmaties of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
40th Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.
62d Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them Change if you can the Discourse.
54th Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Deck't, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.
22d Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
51st Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they be Brush'd once every day at least and take heed tha[t] you approach not to any Uncleaness.
9 Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
108th When you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriously & [wt.] Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor.
Do Your Job
I recently had an unpleasant experience that I thought I would share with all of you. I am the head of my academic department at school, and part of my job is working with all the people in my department, so the department works well. However, two of the people in the department have had a lot of trouble getting along with each other. Working with this disagreement has been a very uncomfortable experience for me, and there have been several times that I really didn’t want to deal with it. However, I did deal with it. Why do you think I did so, when I found it so distasteful? [Answers should be something on the order of, “Because it’s your job.”]
All of us have jobs to do, and oftentimes we don’t enjoy certain parts of these jobs. You may have school assignments you really don’t want to do, but you do them because you have to in order to make the grade or to learn something. In the Troop, many of you have jobs. Whether you are a patrol leader, scribe, instructor, or senior patrol leader, all of your jobs have assigned duties. What happens if you don’t do your job? Things don’t work well, or we let down our fellow scouts, you may not advance to the next rank, or your leaders (heaven forbid!) have to have a discussion with you. If you have a job, you are going to be expected to do it in life. So, get to work! Do your job! You’ll be happier, you’ll get the unpleasant stuff out of the way so you can have more fun, and everyone will get along better!
The Fox and the Grapes--Revisited
One hot summer's day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. "Just the thing to quench my thirst," quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: "I am sure they are sour."
Many of you may recognize this story. It’s from Aesop’s Fables, which have been around for thousands of years, and were the first collection of “Scoutmaster’s Minutes.” Well, at least they were intended to teach lessons about life. The moral of this fable is that it is easy to despise what you cannot get. I heard a lot of put-downs similar to this from people my age when I was a boy, and I hear a lot of it from young people today. Today, though, rather than saying the grapes were sour, I often hear that something someone can’t attain, isn’t interest in, or can’t measure up to is “dumb" or "stupid.” Rather than condemning what you can’t do as “dumb,” a Scout should recognize that everyone has different talents, and some folks just can’t do some things, while others can; or, try harder to get them; or, seek help to reach a goal. That is, don’t say the grapes were sour, or that a goal or activity is “dumb,” just admit you can’t or don’t want to reach them and move on, or else try harder to get them.
Cat's in the Cradle
since retired, my son’s moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.
He said, ‘I’d love to, dad, if I can find the time.
You see my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu,
But it’s sure nice talkin’ to you, dad,
It’s been sure nice talkin’ to you.
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me:
He’d grown up just like me.. My boy was just like me.”
Those of us who are a little older, and probably some of the younger ones in the audience, will recognize this line from singer-songwriter Harry Chapin’s song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”. This song is about a man who is so busy setting up his career and letting life lead him, that he misses out on seeing his son experience life and growth. By the time he realizes he’s missed these events in his son’s life, it’s too late, and his son is repeating his mistakes. The song reminds us that we should occasionally say, “Time out!”, and think about what’s REALLY important in life. I don’t think there are too many parents, or boys, who don’t occasionally slip into the same mode as the man in the song. Maybe it’s time to reflect on what’s really important in life—our family for one thing—and do something to balance your life. Then you can avoid what happens in the last line of the chorus of this song,
you comin’ home, son?
I don’t know when.
But we’ll get together then, dad,
We’re gonna have a good time then!”
“Woodcraft is the first of all sciences. It was Woodcraft that made man out of brutish material, and Woodcraft in its highest form may save him from decay.” ---Ernest Thompson Seton, First U. S. Chief Scout, artist, scientist, and author.
Teaching boys various aspects of woodcraft (today we call them Scouting skills) passes along traditions that have been with us since pioneer days, and connects us with the first inhabitants of North America. It also gives a boy of sense of accomplishment to master a craft, gives him new confidence that promotes leadership skills, and gets him away from some of the negative aspects of modern life. Boy Scouting is one of the few activities that a boy can participate in today that promotes these values. To the adults, I’d also encourage you to master a woodcraft skill. I’ve learned more than I thought I could in becoming a Scout leader, and I can highly recommend it to all of you.
We All Have Value
I want to take you back about 40 odd years ago, to a young boy who got interested in Cub Scouts. He shortly got into a den, and worked his way through Wolf, Bear, and (the now discontinued) rank of Lion; and earned several Arrow Points along the way. At about the time he earned his Bear badge, his dad became a “Den Mother”, since there were not enough moms willing to volunteer for the job in his pack. The den did a lot of fun activities and crafts, but the boy started to lose interest after awhile. The main reason was some of the other boys in the den. They didn’t like the boy, because he was not very athletic and was poor in sports. He started to get picked on and bullied by these boys at school. Eventually they made things so uncomfortable for the boy that he dropped out of Scouts altogether when he was in Webelos. Years later, he got back into Scouting as an Explorer, and realized how much he had missed by not continuing into Boy Scouts.
Many of you may think this is just a story I made up, but it isn’t. You see, that boy was me. I truly regret that I didn’t continue in Boy Scouts, but I’ve sure had fun being an Explorer and an adult leader. How about you? Do you make other boys in your patrol or in school feel welcome, even if they don’t have the same interests you have? If you don’t, then remember the part of the Scout Oath where you swore to obey the Scout Law, and the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th points of the Scout Law—Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, and Kind. ALL of us have special areas in which we excel—some in athletics, some in school work, and others in hobbies or just working with other people. Remember that, and appreciate our differences. Don’t write people off or make things uncomfortable for them just because they aren’t like you.
Story of a Real Loser
I want to tell you about a real loser. As a child of seven, this boy and his family were forced out of their home, and the boy was forced to go to work. The family worked hard, but remained poor. Two years later, the person he loved best in the world, his mother, died. When the boy left home, he got a job as a store clerk, but lost it when he was only twenty. The young man then decided to run for the state legislature, and lost. He wanted to go to law school at the age of 20, but was not admitted. He went into business for himself by borrowing money from a friend at age 23. You guessed it—by the end of the year he was bankrupt, lost his business, and spent the next 17 years paying off the debt. At age 25, he ran for the state legislature, and actually won! He dated a girl for four years, asked her to marry him, and she turned him down at age 26. She died shortly thereafter, breaking his heart and sending him into a nervous breakdown at age 27. He spent six months in bed. At age 29, he sought to become speaker of the state legislature, and was defeated. Two years later, he sought to become an elector in the Presidential election, and was defeated. He ran for Congress at age 34 and lost again. In the meantime, he married, but his marriage was never very happy. His second son died at the age of four, and the family was grief-stricken by this loss. Three years later, he was elected to Congress, only to be defeated for re-election two years later. He sought the job of land officer in his home state at age 40, and was rejected for the job. He ran for the Senate at age 45, and lost. At age 47, he ran for the Vice-Presidency, and lost again, getting less than 100 votes at his party’s convention. At age 49, he ran for the Senate again, and lost. Finally, at age 51, he was elected President of the United States.
By now, many of you know I’m talking about Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday was yesterday. Lincoln’s life teaches us many things, but one of the best is that failure need not crush you. You can always bounce back. Next time you have a rough day, or things don’t go well in school, or you can’t accomplish a goal you’ve set for yourself, think about Abe Lincoln. Finally, take heart from one of Abe Lincoln’s statements, made during the Civil War:
My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure – A. Lincoln
In the Arena
Have any of
you tried to do a task and failed? Most of you have. Was it worth doing or
should you have never even tried? President Theodore Roosevelt had a
strong opinion on tryingand on failing. He had failed numerous times in
his life, but always got up and tried again. Thus, he became a successful
rancher, Colonel in the Rough Riders, Governor of New York,
Vice-President, and, finally, one of our most respected environmentalist
Presidents. I read a quote from a famous speech of his.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Scouts Help out When Needed
When I was about 10
years old, my parents decided it was time to pave our driveway, which was
a gravel drive. I was considered not quite old enough to help out with the
concrete, so I asked my dad how he was going to get help. “I’m just going
to call all my buddies from work,” was his reply. Sure enough, come
Saturday, half a dozen gentlemen who were my dad’s coworkers showed up.
They worked hard after the concrete truck dumped the raw concrete, running
the float across it, troweling, and finishing the paving job. After we
furnished them lunch and some refreshments, they worked to finish up, and
then went on their way when the job was done later that afternoon.
Some of these guys were men who weren’t angels, and all had their own chores and demands on their time at homebut they sure did respond when my dad asked for help. I was pretty surprised at how eager all the men appeared to be to do the work, and said something about this to my dad later. “Heck,” my dad said, “If I asked these guys to help out with just about anything, they’d be there. They’re my friends. Friends help each other when they need to.” I know from experience that my dad also helped out when many of them needed help with a chore.
I don’t know if any of these men had been Scouts, but they were sure acting like it. Scouts should always be ready to lend a helping hand to improve their community and help out when they can. In fact, we Americans have been well known throughout our history for pitching in when people need help. How about you? Are you ready to help?
Have you boys all heard of a three-legged race? Most of you have—you stand beside another person, tie the one leg next to the other person to his leg, and try to run a race together. Most people who try to run a three-legged race have a lot of fun, but end up stumbling, trying to move in different directions, or falling. My friend Phil and I decided to participate in a three-legged race at our school’s Play Day when we were 10 years old. Phil was a lot more athletic than me, but since we were buddies, we gave it a try. First, we got together at recess a couple of weeks before the event and practiced. Our first efforts were pretty pathetic—we stumbled, and Phil tried to move faster than me. Phil then said, “Let’s try something different. Put our tied legs forward at the same time, now step forward with the other leg. Now try it faster.” We did this, and were moving at a pretty good pace with a little practice. The day came for the race, and about a dozen pairs of children lined up on the starting line. Phil and I raced forward at the word “Go,” and got far ahead of the rest. We easily won the race, while the others stumbled around. Now, why do you think we won? Some might say practice, but the main reason was teamwork. We are here tonight to honor three new Eagle Scouts. It took a lot of teamwork to get them where they are today: from other scouts, adult leaders, parents, school leaders, religious leaders, and many others. They provide a great example to us that, with some individual initiative and a team of supporters with us, we can accomplish great things. So, celebrate the three teams represented here, and think about my three-legged race. The team always gets the job done!
My Uncle Bill
Today is Veterans’ Day, and so I want to tell you boys about my dad’s older brother. Uncle Bill was 19 years older than my dad and reached age 21 in 1929, just in time for the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, and he didn’t get along with my grandpa very well, and so he left home to find work. First, he worked in an auto plant in Michigan, but didn’t find this to his liking. So, he decided to seek a career in the Army. He apparently excelled at it (according to my dad, aunts, and uncles, he was probably the most intelligent of the family). He came home on leave a time or two, and my dad, then about the age of you younger Scouts, had a great time with him. Uncle Bill was stationed for a time in Hawaii, and then his unit was transferred to the Philippine Islands. The Philippines were then a “possession” of the U. S., having been transferred to us after our victory in the Spanish-American War. Uncle Bill was still there when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941. He and his comrades fought bravely on the Bataan peninsula, but were defeated, and surrendered to the Japanese. They and 76,000 others were then marched from Bataan, some 55 miles inland to San Fernando—without food and with very little water. Over 20,000 died in route, on what was later called the “Bataan Death March.” They were then packed into train cars and moved to Camp O’Donnell. The camp was horrible by all accounts. Men died by the dozens every day. Uncle Bill lived through this, only to be moved to Cabanatuan Prison. There, conditions continued to be inhuman. Hundreds died from malnutrition, tropical diseases, and the effects of unsanitary conditions. Sadly, Uncle Bill, my namesake and my dad’s favorite brother, took sick and died in August, 1942. We know what we do about his imprisonment and death from other men who managed to survive, somehow, until the end of World War II.
My uncle was a brave man to endure what he did for his country. I hope none of you ever have to repeat what he had to do. But, each generation must do its part to preserve American liberty, even if it is not taking up arms to do so. For example, right now we should be supporting our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. All of us as citizens also have obligations that we must do, including vote, pay taxes, change unjust laws, or chip in and help out when it’s the right thing to do. These obligations are part of what guarantees our rights as citizens. So, next time you don’t want to help out when you really should, think about my Uncle Bill. He and thousands of others gave their lives so you guys could enjoy the fruits of being an American today, and you owe them for that.
I spend most of my times up here at the end of each meeting giving you examples of how other people have lived by the Scout Oath and Law, or how you can strive to do better, or how you need to change to be a better Scout. This week is different. For our November campout, as most of you know, we went to Shiloh. Among those who attended were 6 Second-Year Webelos and their parentswho hiked Trail No. 1. The Webelos also got to camp with us, and see how we do things on campouts. While I was unable to be there on Saturday night, I KNOW you guys did a wonderful job. Why? Because Mr. Williams and I spoke with one set of parents. Both of them said that not only is their son excited about crossing over next year, but the dad was impressed with how you guys ran things, and how you worked as a team. I’ll admit this caused me to be very proud of the Troop, and of the way you guys have used the training you’ve gotten from me, older Scouts, and the other adult leaders. So, this week you can see my examples of living the Scout Oath and Law by looking at yourself and at each other. Great job, guys! I’m proud of you!
I recently attended a Court of
Honor for another troop in town. As with many Courts of Honor, this one
opened with a candle-lighting ceremony, with candles to represent the
three parts of the Scout Oath, and the 12 points of the Scout Law. The SPL
lit the three candles, and different Scouts from the new scout patrol lit
the candles for the 12 points. For some reason (and as is typical), the
candle for the “Trustworthy” point failed to stay lit. In fact, it had to
be re-lit three times! Of course, several of the Scouts giggled, and
others were embarrassed, but it finally stayed lit.
I always feel a little uncomfortable when such a solemn occasion is disrupted by technical difficulties, and felt a little sorry for the Scoutmaster, who had the next part of the opening ceremony. However, he stepped up, and without missing a beat, started his part. “This candle had to be lit three times before it would stay lit,” he started, “but it finally did. So it is with living by the Scout Law. Sometimes, despite the best you can do, the light goes out. It’s up to you, though, to light it again. Keep working toward obeying the Scout Law, and do the best you can to light the points, and keep them lit.”
I can only echo that Scoutmaster’s words, and respect him for turning a bad situation into a good one. We work the best we can, fall short, but keep trying. Then, you can truly say you have done your best to obey the Scout Law.
Never Give Up
When I was little, my dad often told the story of when my uncle took a typing class in high school. He really did want to learn to type, but he shortly learned that his fingers were just too big to allow him to type well. When he hit a key, he would often hit two keys at once. Nonetheless, my uncle worked hard at it. At the end of the semester, he still couldn't type worth a darn. I guess he expected the worst when it came report card time. Much to his surprise, though, he managed to receive a passing grade, a "C" in the course. When he asked the instructor why, the response was, "I know you can't type very well, but you just tried so darned hard that I had to grant you the grade based on effort."
The way I see it, this story really has two heroes: my uncle, for trying so hard, and that teacher, for recognizing his effort. I've been in many situations like this in my life, and I know all of you have, too. You generally feel pretty bad when you can't do something well, but you don't feel nearly as bad when you know you tried your hardest. In fact, sometimes you get pretty good at doing many things if you keep at it. Also, like the teacher, many people are watching to see how well you do try. This is what the parts of the Scout Oath, "I will do my best," is all about. That's all we can expect of anyone, but it's the least we can expect of a Boy Scout.
Keeping the Faith
Many of you have
probably kept up with the news concerning the death of Pope John Paul II.
This brilliant man led the Roman Catholic Church for nearly 27 years, even
while suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, in which the brain loses the
ability to control muscular movements over time, and while suffering
through several bouts with respiratory viruses before his death. He had a
tracheal tube to help him breathe, and a feeding tube to assist him with
getting enough nutrition. He was unable to speak in the last few audiences
he granted, and at Easter Services. You might have felt sorry for Pope
John Paul, but you really should view his many difficulties in a different
light. Pope John Paul provides an example of how faith can rise above
physical ailments. He still led the Church, and even though he had all
those physical problems, gave us a shining example of how to live
lifeeven with many difficulties and a bleak prospect for the future.
All of us have many problems in life. We get sick, we have trouble working with other people, or we disagree with friends and family. Put it all in perspectivemost of our problems pale in comparison to those of many others in this world. Make the best of things, work through these problems, and keep the faith. A Scout is reverent, should always work to rise above the small (and some large) problems in life, and should provide an example to others on how to live life to the fullestjust like Pope John Paul.
Oftentimes when I ask you guys about a rank advancement, or a requirement for a merit badge, or why a Dutch oven isn’t clean, the first response I get is an excuse. Some of these are quite creative, although I guess I haven’t heard that the moon is in the wrong phase, or a meteorite hit your house and you lost the records, or elves came out when you were sleeping and made the Dutch oven dirty. Excuses also irritate me, because I really didn’t ask for a debate about why you didn’t do what you were supposed to do. The point is that it just needs to be done. I was reminded of excuses awhile back when Mr. Williams sent me a couple of quotes from the late Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul said, “An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded.” What he meant by this is that an excuse purposefully hides the real reason that something was not done, which is often unpleasant for the person offering the excuse. Think about this the next time you are tempted to offer up an excuse. When you are asked something, just respond with the REAL reason you have not accomplished your goal or task. “I was lazy.” Or “I was playing video games.” Or “It is unpleasant and I didn’t want to do it.” Or “I knew it was my responsibility, but I thought someone else would do it.” These are more truthful than offering the excuse, and pave the way for the task to get done!
A little over six years ago, a new group of Scouts crossed over from Webelos to Troop 16. Three of them were from Pack 1, and 8 from Pack 16. These Scouts formed a New Scout Patrol named the Turtles, with the patrol yell of, “Slow and Steady!” The Turtles quickly lost one Scout to sports, but the remaining 10 all went to summer camp that year. Two more dropped out of the Troop in the fallone because he hated camping, and the other because of sports. Patrols were reformed that fall, so the Turtles became members of other patrols. However, the Turtles kept on going, with the remaining 8 rarely missing a campout. A fourth one dropped out in his 3rd year, again because of sports. However, I’m happy to report that the remaining 7 stayed in the troop through last year, and 6 are still with us nowfor their last year of Boy Scouting. Three have attained the rank of Eagle, and a 4th is working on completing his this summer. This is a remarkable record for any group of Scouts! Why have they been able to do it? Well, this is an interested and dedicated group of guys, for one thing. Several of them, despite having an active interest in sports, have still stayed interested in Scouts. Also, their parents have been very, very supportive. Leaders like Mr. Williams, Mr. Kanneberg, Mr. Pfau, Mr. Seyer, Mr. Little and I have been in this Troop because our sons were Turtles! We’d like to see all of you stay with Scouting until you are 18. So, keep in mind what it takes to stay in Scouts: interest, commitment, and support from your parents---and having fun!
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Last updated May 09, 2005