Are you Serving Scouts or Expecting to be Served?

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servingAs a camp director one summer, years ago, several Scouters complained that our dining hall steward was getting out of hand.

We served all our meals family style and Scouts served as waiters. Waiters arrive before the meal to set the table, serve the food during the meal, serve their table during the meal, and clear up afterwards.

Troops rotate this responsibility for a full week so at any meal there are Scouts who are new to the experience and they make mistakes.

My dining hall steward (just 16 years old himself) was growing increasingly frustrated with these mistakes . He knew exactly what needed doing, the Scouts did not, and it was trying his patience. He started getting angry and resentful, he yelled at them and this made his inexperienced waiters even more jumpy.

I sat down with my dining hall steward, listened to his complaints. From his point of view Scouts were not trying very hard, they were confused by simple tasks, and didn’t listen to him.

I told him that this was understandable, he was doing a frustrating job. But after all these Scouts he was working with were not highly trained marines taking a beach but boys carrying plates. They wanted to do well, they were trying to make good, not to make his job difficult.

I told him that there were few, if any, times yelling would get him what he wanted. I asked him to try helping the waiters instead of barking at them and see how that worked.

To his credit he understood. Instead of treating the Scouts as his servants he started serving them. He made it his responsibility to see that they succeeded. The result was a happier dining hall steward and happier Scouts.

As Scouters we have to remind themselves that our Scouts are experiencing things we may have done many times for the first time. They want to do well, they want our approval. Mistakes are inevitable, but they are trying to make good. We have to keep in mind we are serving Scouts, not getting them to serve us.

Older people tend to grow frustrated when we see young people repeating the same mistakes or making the same misjudgments we made at their age. We wish they would just listen to us, so we raise our voice hoping they may finally hear what we are saying.

We can literally yell, or raise our voice in more subtle ways. We can extend our authority, or simply usurp their efforts when we grow impatient. But if we do we have missed a real opportunity for service. We can serve our Scouts in the spirit of an older brother or sister rather than expecting they serve us.

When we grow impatient or become frustrated with our Scouts we need to remind ourselves in almost every case they are trying to make good rather than trying to make trouble. Find a way to cooperate with that effort and you’ll not only make your Scouts happier, you’ll be happier yourself!

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