They’re walking in your steps

Today’s article comes to us courtesy of Sean Scott. Sean’s a long-time Scouter who I got to know through a Cub Scouting forum when we were both Cubmasters. Back in the day, Sean wrote:

Yesterday I was getting ready for a new pack organization meeting. My job is to get everyone excited and then, while my district executive talks to the parents, I take the boys outside to work on Bobcat. Oh, and then we make film canister rockets. When we get back together, I do a little ceremony, a couple of cheers, a song and a closing.

Not happy with the “Follow the Bobcat Trail” help sheet I’ve been using for a couple years now (it’s a 10th generation photocopy of an old mimeograph page, I believe!), I decided to type up a new one. One line describing the Law of the Pack really caught my eye and made me think:

In the Law of the Pack, you say you will follow Akela. This means you will walk in the steps of your Cub Scout leaders…

Walk in the steps of your leaders. That should give us all pause to think!

I’ve heard a saying that goes Scouting would be a great program if it weren’t for the adults.  How many times do we see or hear about leaders who are belittling one another, taking shortcuts with the program or safety, spreading rumors or unfounded gossip, talking behind others’ backs, making up their own rules, or flat out shouting and fighting with one another? Are any of us foolish enough to believe that, no matter how insulated we may think the boys are, they don’t pick up on this? I’m convinced that kids are more perceptive than most people give them credit for. And when they see the leaders acting this way, well, they’re going to follow in our footsteps.

But our good behavior needs to extend past “Scout time” and into our regular lives. When I first started out as a leader, the uniform made me self-conscious, and I found that I behaved better when I was wearing it. But street clothes doesn’t mean that I’m not a Scouter, does it? I can still be at the store and run into a boy from my old pack, or a kid who went to day camp. I can still sit down in a restaurant and find myself next to a family I know from a training event.

So the uniform probably makes many of us behave better. But should it? Does what we wear change who we are, what our values are? The more time I spend in this program, the more I realize the importance of living the Scout Oath and Law at all times, living by the values of the Scouting program always. If we as leaders are exchanging our values as easily as we take off our shirts, then we haven’t given ourselves totally to these values. We’re only borrowing them for an “hour a week”. Dressing up in costume. Pretending to be something we’re not.

When the boys see us slipping in and out of our values, what sort of example are we setting for them? Doesn’t that send the message that there’s a way to behave when we’re at Scouts, and a way to behave the rest of the time? But is that what we want for them?

So take a moment, and think about where your footsteps lead. Ask yourself if they’re going in the direction you want your boys to follow. Because like it or not, these boys look up to us and model their lives on ours. They truly are following in our footsteps, for better or worse!

Thank you, Sean, for the great words of inspiration and for permission to reprint them.


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