I recently had the honor of accepting the Good Scout Award on behalf of my company. What follows are the few words that I said at the awards ceremony.
The Boy Scouts have always held a special place for me. My wife and I were very active when my two sons were in the scouting program in Connecticut; we served on many committees and worked to make the principles of scouting a part of both of their lives.
I went on many campouts with my sons’ troop. I remember them well. And, one of the reasons that I remember them so well is that it always rained. This troop was plagued with rain. One of the most important early lessens that I learned was how to trench the tent. For those of you not familiar with tent trenching, the idea is to use a shovel to dig a trench around the outside of the tent before you go to bed at night. If it rains during the night, the rain runs off the tent into the trench and away from the tent rather than under it. It took a few trips for anyone to explain tent trenching to me. I suspect that my sons thought that it was pretty funny watching dad get up the next morning with a soaked sleeping bag. But I eventually learned tent trenching and survived the campouts.
But, long before that, when I was a boy—long, long ago- I was in the scouting program in Colorado, from Cub Scout to first class scout (In full disclosure, I never made it close to Eagle Scout), but I still remember many of the things that I learned from that program.
Many of the practical things I still use today, for example: how to build a fire, how to use a pocket knife, how to use tools. Many of the lessons that I learned go much deeper than that. I learned how it felt being accepted and accepting others into a group. I learned the importance of allegiance to our great country. But perhaps the most important thing that I learned was helping others.
In that regard, I remember when I was a scout, a boy in my group, Joe, had a father who was serving in Vietnam. Now, it came time in our troop for the annual pinewood derby, and at one meeting the leaders handed out the pinewood derby kits. Now, for those of you who have had no experience with the pinewood derby, these kits consist of a block of wood, four plastic wheels and four nails. The thought of turning that meager set of ingredients into a reasonable facsimile of a car that can very quickly slide down rails on a track can be intimidating for many fathers, but you can imagine what it was like for Joe who had no father at home.
I remember when my father found out about Joe’s predicament, he promptly volunteered to help Joe carve his car. You see, my father recognized that there can be no more integral part of scouting than helping others. We had Joe over to our house many nights as the two of us took these blocks of wood, and with my father’s help, turned them into to race cars.
I have long since lost track of Joe, and my father recently passed away, but I will never forget the look of pride on that boy’s face when that car was done and raced down that track, and I will never forget how important that lessen of helping others was to me.
Every day, we are faced with media stories of young men, who are troubled, of drug problems of shootings of knifings or maybe just as significantly, of youth who simply sit around on the couch and play video games—who unplug themselves from society.
That is not what life should be about. We owe it to our young men to work with them to teach them principles by which they can reasonably live their lives.
So many times we rely on our schools to raise our young men. Schools serve a significant role, but schools alone cannot raise our youth. We, as mothers and fathers must play an active role in that process.
And, there is no better way of working with our young men, than through the Boy Scouts of America. Whether carving pinewood derby cars with them or camping in the woods, we need to be right there with them, teaching them and working with them.
For more information on surviving life’s everyday predicaments, please read my book, The Freshly Single Man’s Guide to Household Survival.