Scouting has always been a prominent part of my life experience. My father was a Life scout prior to shipping off to Germany at the close of World War II, and he served as ASM for our local troop. My mother was a den leader, my brother an Eagle. My wife has served as Advancement Chair, Treasurer and all-around utility player. My sons attained Life and Eagle ranks as they made new friends and met various leadership, learning and service challenges. Having started as a cub, earning my AOL and Eagle awards, I’ve sat on countless BORs as a dad with one troop and served as SM after starting Troop 113. I’ve counseled literally hundreds of scouts on various merit badges at camps, with buddies and as part of MB Fairs. I’ve spent 20+ weeks at various Scout Reservations from 1971 to 2013, and I’ve met many wonderful adult volunteers as I served my district as FFOS presenter.
I think this is one of the reasons why I am so interested to read articles about how scouting has influenced others: to see how their experiences and lifelong benefits may parallel my own.
One recent article is titled “Boy Scouts Made Me The Man I Am Today, Here’s How” (Click HERE to see full article). In this article, the author highlights key life skills introduced or mastered during his involvement with the program. Things like learning to shoot, save lives, build confidence to try new things, enjoy the outdoors, pick up leadership practice and more.
The paragraph that made me laugh as I read was the following:
Scouts Are The Best Secret Society: Forget the Illuminati or the Skull and Bones. You want to be part of a fraternal order that means something? At 33 years old, I still put “Eagle Scout” on my resume and keep my membership card in that organization behind my driver’s license. It’s gotten me into jobs, out of trouble and immediately marks me out to other members as a peer that can be relied upon. We actually kinda run the world.
The author also pointed out the practical side to the program – learning to value the challenges that life presents as opportunities for growth and development. The value of working hard is summed up in the following manner:
Scouts Made Me A Worker: When I’m not cranking out 5 to 10,000 words a day, you’ll find me working out at the gym, taking my dog hiking or fixing up my house. I never stop. It’s not an illness, it’s an appreciation of the value of hard work and a mindset that values long term goals. You won’t find a colleague of mine that wouldn’t immediately describe me as the hardest working guy on the team and I more than pull my weight in any endeavor I embark upon, even if that’s just making sure I’ve got the heaviest pack on a backpacking trip. Guess where I learned that? You got it.
Scouting has a lot to offer. So do many other fine youth programs that use teams (aka patrols), advancement, outdoor programs, and methods very similar to BSA. The methods and practices are more influential than the color of the uniform or the style of the patches and other awards – it just takes a dedicated core of volunteers to enable the youth to own and lead the program themselves. Its that “ownership” of results that helps develop the life skills that will still be talked about years after “graduating” from the program, and lead fathers to bring sons into the program.
If BSA isn’t the right fit for your family (too secular/too religious, too restrictive on membership/too liberal on membership, etc.) there are many other programs that range from purely secular and welcoming all comers to those that are distinctively faith focused and incorporate a greater emphasis on the spiritual development of youth.
For as much as I grew up with scouting in my blood, under my skin and hardwired into me, I am thoroughly convinced that while BSA offers a great program, it is hardly unique.
Young men and their parents can and will get an equally rich, fulfilling program at any one of many youth development programs – getting the right “fit” for your family is more important in the long run than simply subscribing to a program based on its “cult of personality” marketing efforts. A scout helps other people at all times and is trustworthy in delivering advice – to suggest that BSA is the “only” program that develops men of character would be inaccurate and un-scout-like.