If you follow the news at all, there’s no way to avoid hearing about what some are portraying as a grave threat to our country – an “invasion” by a caravan of “dangerous criminals” with plans to “attack our borders”. The claims are that there are “ISIS” “terrorists” who are “unknown Middle Easterners,” “hardened criminals” and “very tough fighters” who are “bringing smallpox” and have intentions of spreading mayhem. Tens of thousands of military troops have been dispatched to the border to quell this “insurrection.”
Cooler heads realize that the caravan – many hundreds of miles from our border – is composed of, at most, a couple thousand people, mainly from Honduras. For these mostly women and children, many with nothing but the clothes on their back – shoeless, even – things are so bad in their home countries that they are willing to risk the trip on foot of thousands of miles in order to seek asylum in the United States from the violence, poverty and starvation in their homeland. And only a small fraction of those who set out will actually finish the arduous trip.
Whether you believe the hysteria or not, it is a crisis – a humanitarian crisis, not a military one. And your view of the situation as an American citizen is either that we must keep them out at all costs, and tear their families apart if they do breach our shores – or that we as a society must provide them refuge and comfort, and a place to grow, build a life, and be safe from want and fear.
I’m reminded of this as a reader of the Ask Andy column at The Net Commissioner website. Andy, the pen name of a long-serving Unit Commissioner in the Boy Scouts of America, answers questions from readers, often on sticky topics in their units. One of the most frequently occurring situations is discord between a Scout (or his parents) and the Scoutmaster or other troop adult leaders. Many times, what Andy likes to call “tin-pot dictators” ruin the Scouting experience by imposing their own requirements, blocking Scouts from advancing, denying or reviewing merit badge completions, and usurping the role of the youth leadership. Andy’s advice, generally, to those in situations such as these is to “vote with your feet” and seek and find a troop that “gets it right.”
If you’re a reader of this site, or of Andy’s, you most likely are one of those who “gets it right,” or at least is trying to. And as a result, you one day may find yourself “invaded” by outsiders – Scouts who are looking for a better troop experience than they were getting before. Perhaps they had an experience with a stubborn Scoutmaster who refused a Scoutmaster conference for any of a multitude of reasons – too young, wasn’t ready, doesn’t measure up, can’t tie a sheepshank. Or they lacked the opportunity to lead, or volunteered for a position of responsibility only to wither on the vine without support and guidance, then was held accountable for failure.
We must welcome and treat with care and kindness these Scouts who come to us out of frustration with their current situation. Just as it is an unimaginably difficult choice to leave your friends, family and familiar surroundings and travel thousands of miles in search of a better life, it’s not easy for a young person to put the familiar faces of Scouts and adults behind him and try to fit in to a new troop, sometimes in a new town, with new faces and new ways of doing things.
If you get a knock on the door, a phone call, or a visitor at a troop meeting, extend the friendship of Scouting. Your warm welcome will be rewarded with a new Scout with the motivation to forge a better experience for himself and for his troop, and you’ll know that you did the right thing for this person’s future.