You’ve heard that “a scout is helpful”, but have you considered how many times this concept of helping others is woven throughout our scouting ideals? Care to guess?
We already mentioned that helpful is the third point of the Scout Law. Secondly, we are to be helpful to other people at all times as stated in the Scout Oath.
Our Motto, “Be Prepared” also speaks to being ready to give assistance to others, and our slogan “Do a Good Turn Daily” tops off the urgency of being mindful of other people’s situations and opportunities to intervene in a positive, productive manner.
You know, even the Outdoor Code and the concept of Leave No Trace have a lot to do with serving others and being helpful.
Helpful is defined as “giving or being ready to give help” or “being of service or assistance to others”.
So the real questions that we must face are these:
- Do I help other people at all times?
- Am I prepared to intervene?
- Do I act upon recognizing an opportunity to provide help, or wait to be asked?
- Have I been thrifty with my resources (i.e. money, physical health/strength, skills, mental alertness, faith practices, et.al.) so that I’m able to help others?
- Have I done my Good Turn for the day?
- Am I concerned for the welfare of others?
- What more could I have done?
- What can I do differently tomorrow?
The 1911 BSA Handbook states: A scout is helpful. He must be prepared at any time to save life, help injured persons, and share the home duties. He must do at least one good turn to somebody every day.
Interestingly, the English version continues with “And he is to do his duty before anything else, even though he gives up his own pleasure, or comfort, or safety to do it. When in difficulty to know which of two things to do, he must ask himself, ‘which is my duty?’ that is, ‘Which is best for other people?’ — and do that one.” (from “The Scout Law In Practice” by AA Carey)
That can be a very difficult thing to do, and yet building that discipline over the years prepares you to be ready to do astonishing things:
- Exhibit frank honesty with business clients which is so surprising that they comment on it and recommend your business to everyone they know out of genuine appreciation for what we, as scouts would take for granted (A scout is trustworthy).
- Be willing to run into burning buildings to rescue a small child, trapped and unable to escape on their own
- Actively intervene during a disaster to give aid and or shelter to individuals who don’t know what to do
- Take charge during panic and direct people to get them to safety
- Make snap decisions that are sound and of good effect when turmoil is all around you
The Scout Law in Practice has a chapter on “A Scout is Helpful”. It says;
To be helpful to others under certain circumstances requires special knowledge; for instance, on cannot often save a person from drowning unless one is a good swimmer on-self; and one cannot come to the aid of a person wounded in an accident or in battle, unless one knows how to do bandaging, and how to carry wounded or sick people with the least possible strain and discomfort to them. For this reason, all the useful crafts for Life Saving such as First-Aid, Swimming, Resuscitation, Catching Runaway Horses, Checking or Preventing Panics, Firemanship, etc. are especially to be cultivated under this law. That is, if we want to obey the law and be helpful to others, we must learn how to do it under various different circumstances.
This may not be the only way we can demonstrate helpfulness towards others. Can you think of other ways we help people besides responding to emergencies?
The book (The Scout Law in Practice) continues with these thoughts;
There is another way in which we can prepare to be helpful to others with a helpfulness that sometimes may be more lasting than the kinds of help we have just been talking about; and this is the habit of always trying to understand what other people mean when they are talking to us, and especially when they are disagreeing or even quarreling with us. It is a great thing to be able, so to speak, to see through another man’s spectacles when he is thinking things that are at first sight contrary to the things that we think. To keep our tempers and to look at a question from another person’s point of view often gives us an opportunity of helping him and also of helping ourselves. It is a great thing to find out that we can learn to understand one another in spite of disagreements, and can honestly disagree, while remaining perfectly friendly; people who have this sort of strength and good humor are able to be very helpful.
Being a careful listener, compassionate, and willing to go the extra mile when dealing with other people is a way to be helpful. How about other ways? Could we be helpful while standing up for our beliefs?
A day never passes but that a man has to fight against some form of evil or weakness, either in himself or someone else; and, when persons identify themselves with wickedness and try to put it through, at the expense of other people, it becomes necessary to fight with those persons in defense of what is right. Under such circumstances, it is quite as essential to understand the point of view of our enemies, in order to overcome them, as it is to understand other people whom we are trying to help.
So the manner in which we conduct ourselves while standing firm on our morals can be helpful – by fighting fair, by explaining our point of view clearly and rationally, etc.
From a faith standpoint, does God require help from us? Based on my own understanding of who God is, He doesn’t need my help since He is all powerful and all knowing, but I think He expects my obedience, service and reverence (Micah 6:8, et.al.) I also know that there are directives to help other people by showing hospitality towards strangers and to take care of the poor, homeless and hungry, etc.
What about you? Do you identify with any directives or commands from God to be helpful or provide service to Him or other people? Can you think of specific verses or themes found in the Bible? [Note: You don’t have to be a Christian to be a scout, but in our troop, our families do share a common Christian faith practice so we often examine scouting ideals in the light of the Bible to learn more. Regardless of what faith practice you pursue, you can ask the same question: based on “my” faith, what do I learn about being helpful?]
Remember what the First Edition of the BSA Handbook says:
And then the final and chief test of the scout is the doing of a good turn to somebody every day, quietly and without boasting. This is the proof of the scout. It is practical religion, and a boy honors God best when he helps others most. A boy may wear all the scout uniforms made, all the scout badges ever manufactured, know all the woodcraft, campcraft, scoutcraft and other activities of boy scouts, and yet never be a real boy scout. To be a real boy scout means the doing of a good turn every day with the proper motive and if this be done, the boy has a right to be classed with the great scouts that have been of such service to their country. To accomplish this a scout should observe the scout law.
All of this depends on our willingness to trade selfishness for helpfulness. It’s not always easy, but something we must work on from day to day until it becomes our nature to help other people at all times without reservation.