Tonight I was at a Boy Scout recognition event where I was recruiting the parents of the younger boys to step up to the responsibilities of running the troop. My son, a senior in high school, has been in scouting for 10 years. His scoutmaster, one of our friends and contemporaries, will be stepping down this year as our sons graduate from high school and out of the Boy Scouts. After 7 years of running the troop, he and his wife have earned a break from these responsibilities.
Boy scouting has been great for my son and his peers. As they’ve moved through the ranks, they’ve earned not only merit badges, but an increasing confidence in their individual ability to take control of their lives. Ten years ago, they were the little kids, intimidated by the big kids. Tonight, they’re the big kids- moving on to Eagle Scout status, completing college applications, and ready to leave the protection of our small town for a much larger world. They’ve become the mentors and leaders the younger kids look to for lessons from using a knife safely to navigating the bumpy middle school and high school years. The foundation of personal responsibility, integrity and teamwork they take from scouting will serve them well wherever they land in their future work lives.
None of this is possible without adult leadership, on several levels. Scouting, like most youth organizations, depends on adults to carve out time from work and other obligations to keep a troop alive. Scoutmasters sacrifice weekends and vacations to lead their troops. Families of scouts help with fundraising events and camping trips, and support their kids in completing their merit badges.
Scouting teaches kids to set long term goals and to persist for however long it takes to reach those goals. Scouting also teaches them that family, community and spirituality are as important to a full life as pursuing individual goals. The adult leaders who model this behavior for the kids are teaching them lessons every bit as meaningful as anything in the Boy Scout Handbook. For many workers today, it’s hard to escape the demands of their jobs to make time for “extras” like scouting. Let’s hope, for the sake of the kids (our future workforce), that forward thinking organizations continue to provide their employees with the flexibility in their lives to do so.