The Boy Scouts of America are celebrating their 100-year anniversary this year. A few months ago I shared the story of how it started. Right now my nephew is enjoying the last day of the National Scout Jamboree along with tens of thousands of other teenage boys.
Watching the arena show over the internet Saturday night reminded me of how much I got from Scouting myself.
Here are ten things Boy Scouts taught me:
1. How to tie knots. I’m amazed how many people don’t know how to tie a good knot – let alone the right knot for the right job. If that’s you, here are some basics.
2. Working hard and playing hard go together. Pour yourself fully into whatever you’re doing. I can remember getting home Sunday afternoon after a campout, falling asleep, and not waking up until the next morning. To this day, I don’t know if it was the work or the fun that wore me out more.
3. How to build a fire. Something stirs deep within a man’s soul when he masters fire. If you’ve ever nurtured spark into flame – on purpose – you know what I mean.
4. Teamwork works. Boy Scouts aren’t saints; they’re normal boys – complete with all the bravado, awkwardness, and selfishness associated with most adolescent males. How we learned together to overcome our immaturity and find ways to work as a team continues to serve me with grown-ups today.
5. How to face fear. I learned to swim before I was a scout. At scout camp I got the chance to swim a mile. Then I learned how to swim out to a thrashing, drowning person twice my size, subdue him, and drag him to safety. I threw up the morning before my Lifesaving Merit Badge test.
6. Farts are flammable. ‘nuf said.
7. How to cook on a campfire. I can make more than cereal now because I was forced to cook breakfast and dinner over open flames.
8. Lots of archaic stuff. I learned to ride a horse, use a compass, shoot a bow and arrow, navigate by the stars, built a lean-to, tell time from the sun, identify edible plants, show respect to others, keep myself physically fit, be prepared, and to help other people even when it’s inconvenient.
9. How to be miserable…and like it. Let’s face it, for most of us being uncomfortable at times is just part of life. Learning to be cheerful in miserable conditions has been a wonderfully freeing skill. Life is an adventure and rarely goes as planned, but whatever happens there’s a joy if you can find it.
10. Service is powerful. Ultimately Scouting works because it’s focused on something more than just campouts and merit badges and troop meetings. We were – and are – part of something bigger than ourselves; an organization that is, at its core, about serving others.
What did you learn from Scouts or a similar program?