In Aids to Scoutmastership Baden-Powell writes:
The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother…. He has simply to be a boy-man, that is; he must have the boy spirit in him: and must be able to place himself in the right plane with his boys as a first step.
That’s a bit of poetry, a term to conjure with, and a paradox. (Before I go further any adult, who is a “boy-man” (adult-child?) can be a great Scouter regardless of gender.
I am fascinated with the contradiction in the term. Can we be a child and an adult at the same time?
Being a boy-man isn’t being childish or irresponsible. Scouters are adults “on the plane” of childhood, who are able to understand and enter into the spirit of childhood.
Scouters aren’t quite like anything else because Scouting isn’t quite like anything else.
We are strictly permissive.
We are rigidly flexible.
We are carefully carefree.
We are seriously joyful.
We are insignificantly important.
We are unassertively in charge.
We are youthfully mature.
We are ignorantly knowledgeable.
We coach, but we aren’t coaches.
We teach, but we aren’t teachers.
Further on in Aids to Scoutmastership BP uses the term again:
Where an adult sees a dirty old duck puddle, or an old cardboard box, a child sees an adventure, a castle, an ocean.
BP also wrote:
In the right light, a dirty old duck puddle has more potential for adventure than any world-class destination requiring expensive gear and elaborate planning.
How many times have we labored long and spent much to create something we thought would appeal to Scouts only to find them playing happily in some “dirty old duck puddle”? Perhaps we’d have more impact on the lives of our Scouts (and incidentally save a lot of time and money) if we all spent more time on the plane of childhood.
All of our manuals and training, procedures and policies, all of our forms and papers, our organizations and hierarchies, and (dare I say) our self-importance, fade into their proper perspective if we strive to see the grandeur of a dirty old duck puddle through the eyes of a child.