Scout is clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean.
In the 14th century the King of France asked the medical faculty at the Sorbonne what was causing a devastating plague called the Black Death. Warm water bathing, they replied, opened the pores making people vulnerable to infection.
Cleanliness was decidedly not next to godliness for the next five centuries.
Over the past 150 years indoor plumbing and regular bathing have evolved into what some call ‘hyper cleanliness’ – something that may actually weaken our immune systems.
I am not suggesting a radical departure from societal norms but grubbing around in the dirt, building a campfire, sleeping on the ground and going for a few days without a bath or shower isn’t going to kill anyone. In fact it may be kind of healthy with the caveat that we keep our hands washed, something any doctor would prescribe.
Isaac Ray, one of thirteen founders of the American Psychiatric Association, defined mental hygiene as an art to preserve the mind against incidents and influences which would inhibit or destroy its energy, quality or development.
An energetic mind is full of inquiry and has the ability to resolve philosophical conflicts. It is flexible, resilient and vigorous. The mind is susceptible to injuries that are not as immediately apparent as are those to the body.
Words and attitudes can injure or encourage us with as much (if not more) power as a slap in the face or a pat on the back. We can all recall traumatic, disturbing or unsettling incidents and influences that have caused us real pain. In the same wise we can point to individuals and events that strengthened and encouraged us.
Our attitudes and actions as Scoutmasters have lasting influence. We should aspire to words and attitudes that promote mental and physical strength and resilience.