Imagine a line. A line that starts on the day you are born, and which extends to the last day of Scouting. Right now you are somewhere in the middle, but what happens as you move along that line? For one, you get bigger. You start out as a cute little baby, somewhere in the middle you get hit with the puberty stick, and you end up as a big stinky hairy teenager.
Today I want to talk about a second thing that changes along that line, and which can be more uncomfortable for your parents than it is for you. That is the amount of responsibility you have on decisions that impact your life. When you start out as a baby, you don’t have any choice. You eat what your parents feed you, you wear what your parents dress you in, and you go where your parents take you.
At the other end of that line, you get to make ALL the decisions. You can choose to go to college or drop out of school. You can save your money or borrow to buy things you don’t need. You can eat good foods or switch to a diet of top ramen and skittles.
Between those two points is where you will grow over the next several years. When you learned to ride a bike, you probably started out with someone showing you what to do, and with training wheels or your parent to keep the bike from falling. With enough practice, you could bike on your own, sometimes with a skinned knee along the way.
It will be the same in Scouting and in life. Cub scouts was your training wheels time, with lots of involvement from your parents to participate with you and teach you and sign off requirements. Boy Scouts is a very different program. You will spend your time with your Patrol instead of Parents, you will learn from Troop Instructors instead of your parents. Troop Leaders will sign off your requirements instead of parents, and the Troop leaders will be… Boy Scouts.
You will have older scouts and scoutmasters to teach you about camping and cooking and cleaning and hiking and citizenship, but it is up to you to decide if you will listen and learn. Will Rogers said there are three types of people. Some learn by reading. A few learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. The choice, however, is up to you.
Will you learn about the importance of spare socks from Scout handbook, or after a weekend of wet feet? Will you learn to check your patrol box before a campout from your patrol leader, or after a weekend without the equipment you need to cook?
Regardless of your choice, Boy Scouts provides a safe environment to experiment and fail and experiment and succeed, because you learn both times. Some of your experiments will result in sore feet or burned meals or a cold evening or upset patrol members… and that is a good thing. The next time you’ll break in your boots or pack lighter or bring warmer clothes or practice cooking or help do your part during cleanup, and you’ll learn and grow with each experience.
In Boy Scouts, the adults do not pack the backpacks and buy the food and setup the tents and do the dishes. Adults in Scouting are there to help coach the people with “Leader” on their position badge. In Boy Scouts, you decide where to camp, and what to eat, and what patrol you want to be in, and who the leaders are, and when to earn advancements. Will you be the Scout that participates in Troop activities with a smile, that helps plan meals and volunteers to be the grubmaster and do the shopping, or will you be the grumpy scout that disappears during meal planning doesn’t help cook and complains about the food and doesn’t like the campsite and ignores when his patrol leader needs some help?
Will you work on your own advancement, or will you wait for your parent to bug you about getting things signed off? Will you live the Scout Oath and Law at home and School, or just for an hour on Mondays? Will you choose to be a friend or will you leave others out? Will you ask for help or choose to give up?
You are the sum of the choices you make in life (not just in Scouting). The little decisions you make each day add up and result in the man you will become.
I’ll close with a quote from a very famous doctor and poet who had some very wise words.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”