When I was a child, my mother used to take me with her to shop in center-city Philadelphia. These trips were special for a number of reasons:
- we got to ride the commuter train (I loved trains!) and
- we would accompany my grandmother (who worked in the city selling neckties at Jacob Reed’s Sons) for breakfast at the Stouffer’s restaurant on Chestnut Street before going our separate ways.
Riding the train was exciting for many reasons, but two that come to mind were the “scary moments” of train travel for a young lad. When we would cross over from car to car looking for an open seat, we’d step across the open air connection between cars – the world was rushing past all around us – whooshing and swirling air currents seemed ready to carry me up and away or smash me to the ground. It was scary enough for me to “jump” the few inches between cars when a careful foot step was all that was really needed to make the transition safely.
The second “scary moment” was like the first – when we arrived at the underground station in center-city, we would “mind the gap” between the floor of the train car and the high level platform used to speed loading and unloading (we had climbed up steps to enter the car at our local station, but here, we simply stepped across a gap to a level platform which matched the train car’s floor height).
While this gap was probably only two to three inches, it felt like leaping across a small canyon from my perspective (and with my much shorter legs).
As adults, “Mind the Gap” is a safety warning that’s needed because we have become so comfortable with the gap (from past experience) that we forget it is there. When it’s brand new; however, the gap looms as a much larger (perceived) threat.
Right now there are boy scout troop families considering a change of one sort or another:
- Perhaps their charter partner has asked them to find a new partner.
- Perhaps select families are looking for an alternative to the traditional “interfaith” boy scout program.
- Still others are stuck a few months short of completing their Eagle Scout award and can’t decide whether to move forward at another BSA unit, or move to a different program that will accept all prior work that’s been completed towards a different “pinnacle award” program.
- Some may be flustered by all the commotion and don’t understand why people would even consider leaving BSA at all.
- Others disagree with some family’s convictions and say that staying the course with BSA is the only right thing to do (and seeing some people even consider leaving is upsetting to them).
It’s a little scary dealing with these transitions because of the unknown. However, it’s going to be alright. Despite the whooshing and swirling air, the rushing scenery and the gap between the safety of the coach and the platform, each family will “mind the gap” and take the leap to land on the other side of the decision that’s best for them (stay OR go).
This is precisely where the tenth point of the scout law (Brave) applies with the greatest urgency. We need to be brave as we step across the gap and reach a decision that is best for us, but may be controversial to others. One family may stay and another may go, but they can remain friends despite their choices.
Because this seems to be an emotional choice for many families, we need to keep our cool, avoid pointless arguments, pointing fingers or being snarky.
It is possible that there may be die-hard scouters who will offer grouchy comments when some families make the choice to move on to an alternative program even though it’s the best choice for those particular families (and only the families can determine what’s best for themselves). Similarly, there may be passionate advocates pushing for families to consider a change instead of staying put. Their zeal could lead to bashing existing organizations; however, neither of these attitudes promote scout ideals – we should recognize that a change has happened, and it is reasonable for well-informed parents to do what they feel is best for their children.
Regardless of which side of the fence we’re standing on we owe it to our code of ideals to support these families during the transition – why? A scout helps other people at ALL times. A scout is courteous, kind, cheerful, and clean (in word and deeds). We should “walk worthy” of our ideals at all times.
Adventure doesn’t happen when we sit still — we have to chart our course, identify the path and keep moving. So mind the gap and be brave. If you’ve already crossed over, then offer a helping hand to those following you. If you’re staying put where you’re at, then best wishes and thanks for the shared heritage experiences – let’s keep in touch.