Friday, September 28, 2012

And now for something completely different

Recently, a new family moved into my ward. Not so exceptional an event, as we get a list of new folks every week. It's not even unique that this family is not LDS. What is unique is that this family has a son who will soon turn eleven, and who wants to be involved in Scouting. The boy's mother has stated that she's hesitant about Church being pushed at them, but that he wants to be involved in a Troop. So now I get to (not have to, GET TO!) present Scouting as it's intended, without all the well-intentioned but ultimately misplaced "this-is-a-church-meeting" stuff we see so often. No, I'll simply show that the built-in spiritual component to Scouting is just as valid as any heavy-handed DTG-heavy program, if not more so. It will put the lie to the misconception that Scouting's only value lies in priesthood/mission preparation. The choice to me is simple:  either present this young man with the program he expects - Scouting uncorrupted - or chase him away with a Scouting-as-a-backdoor-to-the-font. Which I will not do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I enjoy photography a lot. In fact, Scouting has proved to be a great excuse to go out and photograph things that I wouldn't otherwise get to, like eagles wintering on the Great Salt Lake. Today's cameras, whether iPhones, PHDs (push here, dummy), or sophisticated D-SLRs are complex computers with a light sensor built in, and are capable of amazing results when coupled with someone who knows what they're doing. How do you get to the point to know what you’re doing, then?

Every camera comes with a manual. There are also third-party handbooks that build on the basics of the manufacturer's manual and point out capabilities that aren't necessarily obvious. But, you don't really need any of that, do you. A camera is easy enough to use, right? Turn it on, push the button, and wham! you've got a 'picher'. Well, if all you want is a picher, (yes, I know how to spell picture and pitcher, and what the difference is) fine. In my case though, I have a vision that I want to make a reality, specific images I’d like to create, challenging techniques I’d to master. But you have to know what's possible, and not settle for what merely is.

RTFM. Read The Freakin' Manual. It tells you how the machine works, which buttons do what, and how to fix problems. Learn the basics in the manual in order to be able to use the tools in new and creative ways. The camera itself is really just a big, dumb, black box that only does what you tell it to. The more you understand about how it works, the better to maximize results. Different tools will yield different results. Software is the same thing. I used to use a wet darkroom with paper, chemicals, filters and all that stuff and it was a blast. Now it all happens with software, and it's even better (though I miss the smell of D-76). The software has a manual, too, for the exact same reason - to maximize results, and make your vision a reality.

Scouting has all kinds of handbooks and manuals. They’re written by experts, through experience; some are even written in blood. Some give you the basics, others offer more advanced techniques.  All are designed to maximize results – to build young men who can, and are willing to be responsible for themselves, and to serve others. RTFM so you know what your tools are capable of, and how to use them effectively. Without the manual though, you'll only get what the big, dumb box thinks is good enough.

Sunset from my front yard.
This is the image I wanted, so I told my camera to give it to me.
From my Flickr feed

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Making Choices

Kids have all kinds of ways to spend their time. Some of these are good, some better, some best. It's up to each boy, with the counsel of his parents, teachers and leaders to learn how to distinguish which is which.

Scouting, in large part, is about making choices. Where do we want to go camping? What will we eat? Which bandage is best for this sucking chest wound? Do I support my team at the game, or support my patrol on the hike this Saturday? In making these choices, boys learn that you can't have it all. You have to pick and choose, and live with the consequences. Parents, especially, need to understand this fundamental aspect of the program. I sometimes feel that we over-schedule our kids, pack their days full of stuff, and make all the decisions for them, leaving them no opportunity to really exercise agency.

In preparing for an upcoming activity, I had the opportunity to help a parent understand that there are choices that boys have to make. Our patrol has an activity on Saturday. Sports are played on Saturdays, too.  Both have mutually exclusive time constraints - you can't do both, nor can you do either part-way. It's one or the other.  (Not unless we leave for a hike at O-dark-thirty, and besides being stupidly unsafe, I don't even get up at that time to go to work.)

I try to provide the opportunities that boys need to succeed in Scouting, and they're always welcome to attend.  If they decide that it's not an option at this time, that's OK, but their schedules are not my problem, and I'm not interested in competing with every single other time demand. Either I'm providing something that they (and their parents) feel is worthwhile, or it isn't. For those to whom Scouting is just another Church meeting (with no time- or monetary commitment laid out), it's probably not; for those to whom Scouting is a life-development program, it is. Everyone makes their own bed.

On the other hand, I thought we'd do a conservation service project next month, but lamentably I've decided against it. Not because it's not worthwhile, but I will not commit to an organization when I can't guarantee that I can provide bodies to do the work. That's a choice to preserve my sanity and integrity.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I noticed you because...

My wife and I were in Washington DC this last weekend, and toured the Capital building. There was a Scout troop taking the tour as well. I only know that because they were wearing uniforms - matching t-shirts AND pants - and that's what I noticed. I saw that several senior citizens appreciatively took notice as well. Without uniforms, I wouldn't have given them a second look.

The uniform, like rank advancement, is one of the methods that Scouting uses to accomplish the aims of fostering citizenship, building character and establishing good fitness habits. Remind your parents to encourage their sons to properly wear their uniform to all Scouting events. It gets noticed!