Over cracker barrel one Saturday night at a campout a couple years ago, as the boys were off at their patrol sites getting ready for lights out, we adults were talking about our boys. We had been watching them from a distance all day as they went about their daily tasks, and I mentioned that it was great to watch my son going about the business of camping with his patrol, helping to instruct and signing off the younger boys from other patrols, and working with his patrol to get their meals cooked and the kitchen cleaned up.
One of the other dads happened to mention that he’d seen his son in action from a distance too, but in another way. His son runs track, and it seems that he had happened across some messages on Facebook between his son, some other team members and one of the captains. The captain was putting down one of the runners, a freshman, who didn’t socialize well with the others, and suggested that they all make fun of him behind his back, and while many others replied with “Yeah – I won’t tell him”, his son said words to the effect of “That’s really mean. Why would you do that? You wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you, would you?”
Scouts, for the most part, are naturally kind. It’s in our Law, of course. And putting the competitive aspects of sports aside, many kids don’t have a very good filter when it comes to knowing what’s right and what’s wrong. A lot of young people seem to drift, alone or in groups, without a set of guidelines on how to act with other people. In this instance, it’s unfortunate that one of the team leaders felt it was appropriate to act in a manner that was hurtful to one of their own, and to encourage others to do the same.
In Scouting, boys need to get along with one another because decisions made by the Scouts in the outdoors have immediate and real consequences. Sure, it’s a game, but an important game – more than just tallying up a score, our game is one where the outcome is measured in character development.
While we can’t be in on every conversation at every moment, we can be on the lookout for signs that one of our Scouts isn’t keeping up his end of the Law. And while there are many ways to handle behavioral issues, we can reflect on any misdirected behavior individually with the Scouts involved as appropriate, while leaving further resolution up to their parents. The good news is these incidents should be rare within the context of a meeting or outing.
I don’t know if this dad found out anything further about the gossip his son’s teammates had planned, but he can rest assured that his son most likely didn’t fan the flames, and quite possibly helped to put them out. Whether Scouting naturally attracts young people of good character or helps to transform them is immaterial. What matters is that our boys are doing good by doing the right thing, even when they think nobody’s watching.
Image: Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net