Over the last few weeks, our offices at work have undergone some renovations, including removal of the 25-year-old wall coverings, painting, general cleaning and rearranging of the furniture. The good news is that I get a new office cubicle with more space and a bit more privacy, but the downside has been working in the interim in temporary quarters, jammed into a small room with several of my co-workers. (But let me be clear that my co-workers are not a downside – I happen to work with a great team that gets along very well.)
During the process, the painters had their obligatory boom-box going in the next room. Ordinarily you’d hear rock and roll or country music, but they usually had the radio tuned to the station playing Christmas music. I thought “oh brother, here come the same twelve Christmas songs over and over” and spent the rest of the day with echoes of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You rattling in my head. Six weeks of that, I told myself, is more miserable than waiting for the groundhog’s prediction to come true.
But then it occurred to me why we embrace the holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or another tradition, the Christian holiday surrounds us. Stores everywhere put up their decorations and lure us in with bargains. Restaurants offer bonuses when we buy their gift cards. We visit our friends and relations, bringing and enjoying good cheer. And we deck our own halls with the signs and symbols of the season.
Why do we do all this? Didn’t we just finish putting away the lights from last year? Why do we overspend and worry about what your uncle or cousin would want under the tree?
I think that, in part, it’s because our world is constantly changing and we’re looking for comfort and joy – something that we can depend on that brings us happiness. Governance in our country, as in many around the world, is in chaos. Our futures are being automated as jobs disappear. Soon we will have cars that drive themselves. And our children are coming of age in a world with more uncertainty than anyone alive can remember. It’s unsettling, to say the least. But the Christmas season comes around each year just like clockwork, with its traditions, treats and tunes, consistent from year to year. It’s something that we can count on for stability and comfort.
Our children may be entering a world where their lives and livelihoods are far from guaranteed. One thing that helps them cope and can give them a leg up in an uncertain world is Scouting. Our values are as immutable and omnipresent as those oft-repeated strains of Jingle Bells. We have cherished and instilled those values for over a hundred years, and that’s not going to change, even as the world around us – and even the Scouting program – changes. The skills learned in Scouting while they’re having fun with their friends – how to cook a meal, lead a team, solve a puzzle or do a good turn for others – will serve them well as they set out on their own. And it will help them deal with the inevitable change they’re certain to encounter – even if it’s just getting their room repainted.
As you meet with your Scouts, remember that we are an anchor, a beacon and a reliable presence in a world filled with change and uncertainty. Be that stability for them. Uphold our values and pass them along to the younger generation, for they are going to need them.