Once in a while a young, energetic Scout leader bounds up on my front porch here and says: ‘I have a great new idea!’
The old Scouter grips his cane, stares over his bifocals and replies ‘There is nothing new – now get off my porch!’
They walk away muttering under their breath ‘ What a curmudgeonly, cane waving, old man!’
No one has actually called me that (at least not yet). But sometimes I do feel a bit like those old guys I ran into again and again when I was a 24 year-old Scoutmaster 27 years ago. At the time I swore I would never become one.
Now I understand what it’s like from both sides of the conversation.
When you run into this kind of response from an old Scouter it could mean a lot of things –
- They are resistant to change and innovation simply because it is change.
- They have already tried that particular idea and it failed.
- They know things that you don’t.
Some long serving Scouters get tired of explaining things, they just want you to accept and act on their wisdom unquestioningly. They become jaded and forget what it’s like to look at the things they know so well for the first time. In the worst case old Scouters may be suspicious of new ideas; they may resent or devalue them – they use their knowledge as a weapon and hoard resources like a dog in a manger.
If you are reading this chances are you are parent to a boy between the ages of 11 and 18. You share in the joy of their discoveries, the sharpness of their disappointments and probably attempt to explain why things are the way the way they are. You get frustrated when they don’t accept your advice or follow your directions. To them you are the curmudgeonly, cane waving old person.
The world at large and Scouting in particular needs both bounding, energetic game-changers and older folks with knowledge grounded in years of experience. There will always be some tension between the two. It is incumbent on the older folks to strike the balance, respond and not dismiss, to help realize the potential of new energy and enthusiasm.