One would rarely call my Troop a well oiled machine or a model of efficiency. That’s the principle reason I love it so.
A dear friend who was a very successful artist worked out of a studio that was best described as a hot mess. Not just typically messy – we are talking breathtaking disorder. Even so he produced art of penetrating simplicity and beauty.
There’s a point during any Troop meeting or outing when I look around and see the same breathtaking disorder. From my perspective youth leaders are slacking off, adults are interfering, Scouts are blandly disinterested – it’s all a few seconds from falling apart, spinning out of control.
In these moments I imagine my artist friend laboring over a painting. Water everywhere, pooling on the tabletop, on the paper, big globs of color, brushes flying, splashing – an impossible mess. He taught me, though, that what seemed like a mess was actually the process of creation. That there were forces at work that one could not and should not seek to control. Art came out of working within the maelstrom, in understanding and cooperating with it, not in controlling it.
So it goes for Scouting. The Scoutmaster’s job is to set things in motion, to encourage, exhort and inspire and then let things work. When I see as messy and disorganized is experienced by my Scouts as orderly and enriching. It’s just a trick of perspective.
Now I know that throwing some lumber, glue and shellac in a cement mixer is not going to produce a Chippendale chair (okay, theoretically it could but let’s not waste our time trying). I am not recommending that we promote disorder or look on it cavalierly but rather that we recognize what looks like a ‘hot mess” to us may be the vital maelstrom of creation.
Experience teaches there are times when we need to step in and times we should not. This finds no better expression in the well-known prayer attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:
“… to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”