To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labor.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Why should you be a Scouting volunteer? Through three decades of guiding my Scouts as a volunteer Scouter I’ve camped and hiked and canoed my way through some beautiful places, shared a thousand campfires and grown older (perhaps even wiser) in the company of many great Scouts and Scouters.
We covered many miles of literal trails together as my Scouts traveled the figurative trail towards adulthood. The tremendous trans-formative potential of the Scouting is an extraordinary journey, a precious opportunity that happens one step at a time, one trail leading to the next, always moving forward.
As you journey through Scouting you won’t just be a tourist seeing this world of adventure and challenge, you will be a traveler experiencing it.
All you need to do is take that first step…
Well why not?
Perhaps you don’t know if you are ideally suited to be a Scouter; or doubt you know enough to lead Scouts, or even wonder of all this effort is worth your time. Every single Scouter has had to overcome those doubts and reservations so you are in good company!
Any journey begins with an idealized picture of we here we are headed, then that ideal meets reality and we may become disillusioned. Disillusionment is actually a pretty good thing – once we trade illusions for reality we can begin making a difference.
As a boy but I had a copy of the patrol leader’s handbook illustrated with drawings of perfect campsites, of Scouts dressed neatly in their uniforms lining up eager to listen to their patrol leader, cheering heartily, rallying around the patrol flag waving their hats. I was quickly disappointed when youthful attempts to organize our neighborhood gang didn’t resemble those idealized pictures.
It’s a very human thing to form illusions of perfection; we commemorate and idolize the perfect almost unconsciously. But experience soon teaches us the important lesson that there’s not much pure black and white. The idea that a perfect solution exists and that any solution short of perfection is unacceptable mistakenly reduces complex situations to two black and white illusions.
Reality is so much more interesting, complex and compelling! We all want to be comfortable and sometimes we recoil when we come up against reality. What I have found is that we can bear with a lot of uncertainty and discomfort to get to see what’s around the next bend. We aren’t always sure what awaits us – it may be bitter, it may be sweet, but we’ll never know unless we go. We’ll all have stupendous achievements along with the occasional dismal failure but that’s the true joy of any journey!
You really ought to get going!
I have never known a parent to regret the time spent with their child in Scouts, some do regret they had not spent a great deal more.
Growing up is a transitional process for parents and children alike. Young children tend to stay in their parent’s orbit, but before long they become confident and comfortable on their own. Scouting is a great way to enable this incredibly important transitional process for a child and for you as a parent.
The adult role in Scouting progresses from serving as the principal leader for younger Scouts to the older age divisions where adults become advisers.
In the first few years you’ll spend more time directly relating to your child as a Scouter but eventually you’ll be working with them in less direct ways. Even if you aren’t spending a lot of time in each other’s company during a Scout meeting or outing you’ll have still have plenty to discuss.
As our children grow up circumstances sometimes strain the parent/child relationship and the opportunity to talk driving to or from a Scout meeting or preparing for a camping trip can be an incredible gift.
Sitting around the campfire or the meeting room you’ll learn that other parents are experiencing the same challenges and triumphs. You’ll have the consolation of being able to give each other some perspective and support when things are difficult. While you are taking refuge in the company of other parents your child is taking refuge in the company of other Scouts.
You’ll have a perspective that few parents enjoy, you’ll see them relating to their peers, leading them, working with them and you’ll watch how your child relates to other adults.
Your child will be watching you too. They’ll see you relating to your peers, leading them, working with them and they’ll watch how you relate to other children.
When the time your Scout is ready to make their own way in the world finally comes you’ll send them off with confidence, independence and skills that grew through Scouting. The transition may even be easier because you have progressively let go and watched them stand on their own two feet through the Scouting years.
Even decades later you will have something beyond the average parent/child relationship; sharing Scouting experiences in common is the basis of an enduring, meaningful friendship.
Scouting is a direct encounter with life rather than just thinking about or considering the possibilities of life. ‘Scout’ is a noun but it is also a verb. Scouts reconnoiter, explore, discover, reveal, observe, experience, evaluate, advance, venture, and pioneer. Scouts are always moving, always advancing.
Scouting is aimed at building character. During our childhood years the adult we will soon become is forged in the heat and hammered into shape at a time we are more malleable and impressionable than we ever will be again. Scouting provides direction and structure, a framework for growth that takes the long view of youth development.
Many other worthy pursuits for children don’t build so much as reveal character.
Why Scouting instead of sports or other kinds of youth groups, clubs and teams? Scouting isn’t an either/or decision. A family that chooses Scouting chooses “all of the above’. There’s specific commitments of time and dedication to Scouting but Scouting actively includes community, school, and family.
We may recall our childhood as bitter or sweet (more likely some amalgam of the two), but we may not fully recall the depth of how we experienced those years. We had our joyous, enlightening, empowering moments and our doubtful, dark and dangerous ones.
The powerful potential of childhood can go well but things can also go tragically wrong – an uncertainty that is equally inspiring and terrifying for parents.
When we reach the tumultuous, stormy, uncertain, years of adolescence we do our best for our children. They resist, we, fight for control, they fight back. It’s almost never easy.
Scouting is a stable, engaging and enriching path through adolescence because Scouting not only stabilizes the powerful instincts and uncertainty of adolescence, it is built on them.
Nearly anywhere in the world young people on the path to adulthood instinctively form groups, adopt uniforms, establish standards, develop a credo and create initiatory challenges. The ‘uniform’ may be torn jeans and black tee-shirts, their standards and credo may be more directed at mayhem than order, their initiatory challenges may be dangerous or anti-social.
We don’t ignore, battle or acquiesce to all this youthful energy – we clear a pathway, offer direction and solace, we cooperate with the powerful forces at work. Scouting uses uniforms, standards of conduct, credos, and initiatory challenges to channel adolescence’s instinctive energy towards positive ends. Scouting can be an island of stability for young people where they can exercise independence, associate themselves with positive values and ideas, and shape a bright future.
Scouting’s adult volunteers are good practical people. We are concerned about what’s going to happen at the next meeting or camping trip. We’re curious about rules and regulations, policies and procedures. We’ll want to measure and quantify the progress of our Scouts. We’ll have plenty of forms to fill in, records to maintain and plans to develop. But these practicalities are meaningless if we don’t appreciate the importance of the less practical, less tangible elements of Scouting.
Scouting is not a system that manufactures a product – it’s a journey that transforms lives, a developmental quest that never ends – we’re not traveling to a final destination we are following a direction; there’s always another step, another challenge.
That challenge, the chance to make a difference, and the joy of journeying forward; that’s why you should volunteer for Scouting.