Mike Walton (blackeagle)

You know you love Scouting...Why are you hiding it?
By: Posted On: 2020-06-22

A close up of a fireDescription automatically generated

Fire image by Mike Walton

 

(This was written in 2002 before my unit, and I was deployed to Kuwait and later to Iraq as part of the U.S. Central Command. The message has not changed and is still important, however!)

Hey, Scouters!

For those who did not "catch the clue," I've been serving as Exercise Director of the last Public Affairs Nationwide exercise. Next year, "Info Strike 03" will take place, and I will be handing off my duties to another Operations Center to manage public affairs soldiers. My unit is scheduled to go overseas (yea) next summer for our Annual Training mission.

I have been living and working at Fort Dix, New Jersey, almost in the dead center of the state. It has been a good experience for me, my first exercise or assignment in my new rank and role. I've learned a lot, which I'll be applying back home in Chicago over the next few months.

I pass by a sign every day on the way from and to the barracks where I sleep. The sign, a brown sign with white lettering, encourages people who "Want to know about Scouting?" to call a local number. It is the only sign like it on the post and is situated on a street whereby everyone passes by it at least once a day.

The sign reminded me of something I said about five or so years ago on Scouts-L. I stated that in many cases, a new person moving into a community has no clue as to what kinds of Scouting activities are available, and it's a challenge to find someone who will even ADMIT to being a Scouter. I called "Scouter" the "S word" because back then, many of us IN Scouting don't tell our friends or workmates what we do away from work....and when we do, it's usually accompanied by some whispered words like "don't tell anyone" or "I don't want everyone to know...."

What, five or so years later, it still hasn't changed. That sign is the only visible recognition that Scouting even EXISTS on this base. But guess what I saw last weekend??

I could not park my car in the regular lot, for every soccer mom and dad in the COUNTY was using Doughboy Field (a massive sports complex close to where we live) as their playground. It was warm -- not as hot as it is today or yesterday -- but they were out there...in droves. I did not see a SINGLE SIGN which said "information about youth sports"...it was assumed that it's a military base, they must have youth sports, let's go sign up.

So why the secrecy? What are we trying to hide from the public?? Why must we couch our words about what we do in Scouting behind "I'm doing this because my child's in it" and "I'm just doing it this year, and that's it..." Come on...be for real!!! You're doing it because YOU LOVE THIS GAME CALLED SCOUTING!!

Why is it so hard for us to admit that we enjoy being around other people with the same ideas, most thought processes, and knowledge bases??

Some of it is because we're like the kids in the third grade who get teased when we find out that their dad is a janitor or a car washer or something like that. The other kids -- boys and girls -- would come around and say things like "I used to be in boy scouts....they kicked me out for eating the brownies (a sexual related stupid joke)." They laugh at you, you maybe try to say something back, but the end result is that you look foolish among your peers when you let them know you "do Scouting." 

Then, there's the "what's wrong, couldn't get involved in REAL THINGS?" people...I run into those folks a lot on a base like this...they are the ones who are doing the whitewater rafting, the mountain climbing, the skydiving....and what do *I* do?? I train Boy Scout leaders. Looking at their and your bodies, okay...so the days of mountain climbing is over decades ago for you...but you counter with "Hey, I go to Philmont! I do the high adventure stuff with my Scouts??" By that time, he or she's out of earshot, and you're just standing there.

The most frustrating part of telling people of your involvement in Scouting is those who do not have a clue as to what Scouting is about. They are wrapped up in three images:

"Are you like a recruiter for scouts?? You know, one of those people who go around and startup new groups or troops or whatever?"

"You a Scoutmaster? Nah...It’s a joke, right?? Who would want YOU to be a Scoutmaster to a bunch of kids??"

"What's that? So you don't work with the kids?? What good is THAT job??"

(and yeah, I've been asked all three...sometimes by the same person! *laughter*)

So, it's no wonder that we keep it all inside and when someone asks "what do you do to get away?", you simply reply "I'm involved in my community" or "I'm active with my church" or "nothing," all which may be true. But it's NOT the REAL TRUTH, isn't it??

What will it take for you to admit -- and be proud -- of the fact that you and I LOVE doing what we do?? Will it take a movie star to do a role as a Scoutmaster (imagine an all-star cast in a major motion picture about a year in the life of a Boy Scout Troop), with all of its problems, achievements, events, and SUMMER CAMP (with Robin Williams as the Camp Director! What FUN)??

Will it take a music star to perform on stage, wearing -- with the BSA's permission -- the complete, official BSA uniform with ALL badges in the places they are *supposed to be*. Will Smith, black shades in hand, telling us to "rock your heads!"

Will it take a television personality to walk onto Oprah, Rosie, or one of the morning news/talk shows, in uniform, talking about "the great time we had at Camp Ki-A-Tango? Is this Sam Watterson's year to wear the Scout field uniform and make that walk-on at Jay or Dave's stage? To be interviewed by Ted Kopple or Aaron Brown or Anderson Cooper in an "extended interview??" 

Our Scouts and Venturers -- and those youth in other youth programs -- take their cues from us, the adults. The ones who are supposed to be "past all of the childhood teasings." The ones who tell children that "sticks and stones may break bones, but words will never hurt" (not true, but it sounds good to say).   They follow our lead. They really do "what we do and not what we say."

You want the "secret formula" for getting them to behave in the appropriate fashion, to wear the uniform proudly and correctly, and to know what it is to "follow the rules" of the group you're in?? Let them see YOU DO THOSE THINGS TOO.   They may not immediately "catch the clue," but their eyes and ears are transmitting to their brains every little thing you do....from the way you stand to the way you bring your fingers to your mouth, to the way you breath out heavily when that SAME KID COMES BY AND ASKS THE SAME QUESTION FOR THE SEVENTEENTH TIME!

You...you....you....you are the "pattern," the "model," the example for those youth you serve. You will see that they will copy you because they respect you...you may know NOTHING about camping, hiking or cooking...but if you look the part, they will look the part too.

There are some zillion variations to wearing the new Army black beret -- I've probably worn mine in some 20 or so by myself! *grinning*. When, however, someone looks sharp in theirs, and you KNOW IT, you're tugging and pulling and priming away as if to say, "I can look that good in this thing too!"

When you are OUT THERE, not ashamed of what you're doing -- your Scouts will be out there also. When you wear the uniform, they will too. And what you say, act and do will be copied by those who admire you, who like you, and who respect you.

You, my fellow Scouter, must respect and admire, and like YOU first. You know you like Scouting.

Why hide it?

 


 

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