“Scout Law: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave clean and reverant.”
How does this worthy list of adjetives fair amongst todays fast-paced boys? To investigate this unlikely combination I traveled to a dimly lit “gym” in a small brick building at the edge of a middling New England town. I was surprised by what I encountered.
We attended a Court of Honor for the local Boy Scouts. At this event boys received merit badges for a variety of positive behaviors and beneficial skills learned. They earned awards for learning to build fires, for learning safety procedures during natural disasters and for helping the community through charitable contributions and personal efforts to educate and assist the less fortunate.
Here in 2011 boys were being publicly rewarded for learning to be self-reliant and learning to help others in need. At the end of the evening the boys were instructed to clean the room and allow the adults to help themselves to dessert before they themselves stormed the dessert bar.
Our sometimes recalcitrant son, who looked increasingly worried by the high standards being set by others in the room, concluded the evening by saying,
“I want to help some of the older boys earn their Eagle Scout merit awards.”
I was floored. I thought he would be ready to bolt. Every boy had committed himself to spend hours learning difficult material and then days and weeks applying this knowledge to materially benefit their community. My son, who eschews hard work, was ready to sign up for extra credit!
I applaud the Boy Scouts for maintaining their traditions and values in the face of our secular and me-centric society. Evidently the appeal of being useful has not faded. These fortunate boys are being given the opportunity to actually be relevant in a modern world. They are eager to learn and to be needed by their community. They are directly rewarded on the most tangible basis: they can clearly see that they have directly improved the lives of those who are less fortunate. They can appreciate the need to learn self-reliant skills because these skills are immediately useful in their Scouting lives, personal lives and in their work to help others.
In short, the lessons and positive behaviors are immediately useful to the Scout. Obvious relevance brings education alive. I am so grateful to have the energy of these pre-adolescent boys channeled into a venue which rewards helping others above helping themselves.