During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.
Two simple yet powerful aids to boy training towards happy citizenship exist ready to hand in —
- The glowing enthusiasm inherent in the boy himself.
- The trainer’s own experiences of life.
One Scoutmaster tells me that he takes my weekly remarks in the Scout as his text for his week’s work with his boys.
His conclusion after reading a good many of these weekly paragraphs is that he believes that I “want to make the boy happy.”
Well, I am glad that he has realised this, because it is really the aim of our training. We want to show the boys how to be happy, how to enjoy life, both (1) in the present, and (2) in the future.
We are not a Cadet Corps or a Council School; with all respect to these institutions, their methods are not exactly ours; we want to make the boys happy for ultimate good citizenship. It is true that incidentally in doing so we give them the benefits that can be got from these other societies, for Scouting does develop Discipline and Health and Knowledge, but at the same time it directly aims to make them better citizens through HAPPINESS AND SERVICE, which is outside the sphere of the others. The smile and the good turn are our speciality. The want of these in the average citizen is at the root of much of our social trouble to-day.
In helping the boy to be happy in the present we do so by utilising and encouraging his impulses and activities, and edging them into the right direction and control.
In preparing him for happiness ultimately in his life we can each of us do much by looking at our own experiences and steering him clear of rocks on which we in our time have very nearly come to grief ourselves.
For instance (if you will forgive a very domestic expose), in my own case, I can look back and recognise that I have had not merely a happy life, but an extremely happy life. I think that much of this has been attributable to the fact that I never happened to run against the rock of unhealthy personal ambition. By good luck, rather than by good management, promotion came to me very rapidly, and yet every step — except that it brought me accession of salary (and, goodness knows, I needed it!) — as regretted by me.
I didn’t want to become a Captain because it put me out of the fun and irresponsibility of being a subaltern; I regretted being promoted to Colonel because it put me away from personal contact with my men. On one occasion I was prematurely promoted to General, and was only too thankful when a few days later it was found that I was under age for the job.
In a word, I was content with what I had.
I cannot remember any period of my life when I had time to be idle or to be without some object in my hobbies or activities.
It is true, for one thing, that I went in a good deal for theatricals; this sounds like wasting time, but never did I take part in or organise a performance without some real reason behind it, such, for instance, as heartening the men during prevalence of cholera or sickness, or to counteract temptation in a bad locality.
When I rose to the position of commanding instead of obeying, I endeavoured to carry out a human instead of an official system of control. It gave one more trouble to organise, but it gave one greater satisfaction in the end.
(Excuse these personal reminiscences and theories. I am merely quoting them with the object of suggesting how every Scoutmaster can in a similar way draw upon his own experiences of life and use them as his guide for training his boys.)
So far as my experience goes the passing of happiness to others is the real key to happiness for oneself.
By encouraging, in a healthy, cheery, and not in a sanctimonious and looking-for-reward spirit, your Scouts to do good turns as a first step, and to do service for the community as a development, you can do more for them even than by encouraging their proficiency or their discipline or their knowledge, because you are teaching them not how to get a living so much as how to live.