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As the tagline promises, I’ve created this blog as a repository for ideas related to writing, Scouting, and writing on Scouting. I talk about the books I sell at EagleBook.com, my other Scouting-related writing projects, and other items of interest. I hope you find the blog of interest. If you have ideas to share, just post a comment on the About page.

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Fun Facts at Eagle Courts of Honor

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A friend of mine is a church music director, and so he attends a lot of weddings. Whenever someone asks what he thought of a particular wedding, he says, “It was beautiful. I cried.” A stock response is often appropriate since weddings can take on a sameness that hides the personality of the happy couple. Unless you know the bride and groom well, you can go home knowing little more about them than you did when you arrived.

The same thing is true of Eagle courts of honor. That’s why I’ve always advocated making each ceremony as personal and unique as possible.

At a recent wedding rehearsal dinner I attended, I saw a new way to do that. On every table were two sheets of paper: one labeled, “What You Didn’t Know About Him,” the other labeled, “What You Didn’t Know About Her.” What followed were seven fun facts about each person: favorite movie, favorite day of the week (and why), what TV show he or she makes the other person watch, etc. It was a great way to add some personality to the festivities.

You could do the same thing at your next court of honor. Interview your honoree to gather some facts about him that won’t find their way into the ceremony: favorite merit badge, coldest campout, hardest merit badge, favorite sport, post-high-school plans, etc. Print them up on cards and spread them around the tables at your reception.

Your guests will enjoy learning a little more about your honoree. And who knows? They may even go home saying, “It was beautiful. I cried. And I learned something.”


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

Just an Organization?

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In my volunteer life, I bounce back and forth between two worlds, Scouting and my church’s youth choir program, and I’m constantly amazed at the differences between the two. Scouting offers many things the church can’t match—an advancement program that gives Scouts a clear pathway, publications like Program Features for Troops and Crews that simplify planning, and the safety policies found in the Guide to Safe Scouting, which not only keep us all safe but save us the trouble of formulating our own rules through trial and error.

But in our strength there is weakness. In many corners of the program, Scouters seem more interested in the rules than the Scouts. We’ve all run into the uniform police, who are intent on pointing out every patch that’s sewn in the wrong spot. And then there are those advancement gurus who want to maintain the purity of the Eagle Scout badge by making the advancement process even harder than it already is.

This love of bureaucracy is something Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell himself encountered. He was quoted as saying, “First I had an idea. Then I saw an ideal. Now we have a movement, and if some of you don’t watch out we shall end up with just an organization.”

Does your troop look more like an organization than a movement? If so, I hope you’ll give some thought to something else B-P said: “Scouting is not a science to be solemnly studied, nor is it a collection of doctrines and texts. Nor again is it a military code for drilling discipline into boys and repressing their individuality and initiative. No – it is a jolly game in the out of doors, where boy-men and boys can go adventuring together as older and younger brother, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness.”

Add girls, sisters, and “girl-women” to that quote, and it’s as true today as it was when B-P said it. Or at least it should be.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

BSA Makes Logo Use a Piece of Cake

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For many people, the centerpiece of an Eagle court of honor is not the ceremony–sorry, Mr. Long-winded Keynote Speaker!–but the reception that follows. And the centerpiece of the centerpiece is usually a delicious and nicely decorated cake with an Eagle Scout logo on top.

Getting that logo on a cake has become difficult over the years as bakeries across the country have become more familiar with trademark laws–in large part, I’m guessing, because licensed designs from Disney and Nickelodeon have become more popular. If a bakery uses a trademarked image like Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man or the Eagle Scout badge, it could potentially get in legal hot water.

For awhile, the BSA licensed its logos to a vendor that specialized in edible cake tops, but recently it has come up with a better solution: a simple form that lets you request permission to use a trademarked logo. All you have to do is submit your contact information, the name and address of the bakery, and the type of cake you want to order. A couple of days later, you’ll get back an electronic approval you can share with the bakery.

While you’re waiting for your approval, you can visit the BSA Brand Center for a selection of official logos, which the bakery might find useful as they design your cake.

When the Scouting Magazine blog talked about this process recently, a few commenters blamed the BSA’s lawyers for what they saw as an unwieldy process. I respectfully disagree. First, if the BSA doesn’t protect its trademarks, it could someday lose them. Second, filling out an online form and waiting a couple of days to order a cake doesn’t seem all that burdensome to me–especially if you’re planning ahead as I suggest in The Eagle Court of Honor Book.

To put it another way, your honoree has been working for years to reach Scouting’s highest rank. I think he can reasonably expect you to do the right thing as you prepare to honor him.


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

Within My Power

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“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a boy.”

You’ve probably read some variation of those words before. But did you know they first appeared in Scouting magazine in 1950? They did, and they end a powerful essay by BSA administrator Forest E. Witcraft. Here it is in its entirety:

I am not a very important man, as importance is commonly rated. I do not have great wealth, control a big business, or occupy a position of great honor or authority.

Yet I may someday mold destiny. For it is within my power to become the most important man in the world in the life of a boy. And every boy is a potential atom bomb in human history.

A humble citizen like myself might have been the Scoutmaster of a troop in which an undersized unhappy Austrian lad by the name of Adolph might have found a joyous boyhood, full of the ideals of brotherhood, goodwill, and kindness. And the world would have been different.

A humble citizen like myself might have been the organizer of a Scout troop in which a Russian boy called Joe might have learned the lessons of democratic cooperation.

These men would never have known that they had averted world tragedy, yet actually they would have been among the most important men who ever lived.

All about me are boys. They are the makers of history, the builders of tomorrow. If I can have some part in guiding them up the trails of Scouting, on to the high road of noble character and constructive citizenship, I may prove to be the most important man in their lives, the most important man in my community.

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a boy.

These days, of course, Scouting serves girls as well as boys. These days, of course, the world is threatened by people with different names than Hitler and Stalin. Nonetheless, the truth of Witcraft’s words remain.

I recently interviewed a leading university president who became an Eagle Scout in 1960. He told me he loved Scouting but struggled with swimming and lifesaving. Fortunately, his Scoutmaster wouldn’t let him give up. Instead, the man gave him unlimited access to his motel’s pool and, probably more importantly, the encouragement to persevere and overcome the challenge he faced. And the world is different because one man was important in the life of one boy.

Too often in Scouting, we focus on numbers, thinking we’re only successful if we have lots of kids in our troops or produce lots of Eagle Scouts. But the most important number is really one. If you change the life of just one Scout this week, this month, or this year, you will be a very important person indeed.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Solving the Puzzle of Youth Leadership

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My toddler grandson loves working puzzles–not 500-piece jigsaw puzzles, of course, but the kind that have six or eight pieces that fit neatly into recesses in a wooden board. Many of these puzzles have an animal theme, but his favorite (shown here) features six colored shapes and three more complex pieces that together make of pictures of a couple of frogs with paintbrushes. (Because why not!)

If you study the picture closely, you’ll see that the colored shapes are same colors as the recesses they fit into, while the recesses the other pieces fit into show the exact same pictures as the pieces themselves. Simple, huh? Not really, if you’re a toddler, because a toddler doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination, analytical ability, or puzzle-solving experience of an adult. And so it takes a lot of trial and error and gentle guidance to get the puzzle completed.

It’s much the same with your youth leaders. Tasks that seem simple to you–planning a troop meeting, for example–are as difficult for them as that puzzle is for my grandson. It’s only when you can see the problem through their eyes that you can help them be successful.

Here are four tips that can help you help your youth leaders be successful:

  • Be patient. A good rule of thumb is to silently sing “Happy BIrthday to You” before you step into any non-emergency situation.
  • Ask questions that will help them find the answer. I like to say that the true mark of a great leader is a question mark.
  • Know when to offer help. Don’t let a youth leader cross the border from frustration and dysfunction. Instead, provide the guidance he or she needs to be successful.
  • Be okay with imperfection. Your youth leaders may never do a job as well as you would, but if they’ve learned something from the process and are ready to take on the next task, then they–and you–have been successful.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Better than Badges

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In the lead-up to welcoming girls into what is now Scouts BSA, one of the selling points was that girls would be able to work toward the Eagle Scout Award. The BSA even created a special one-time policy allowing older girls to apply for time extensions if they’re unable to complete all the requirements before their 18th birthdays. (The policy also applies to boys who join late this year.)

I’m excited about seeing girls become Eagle Scouts, and I’m fine with the temporary policy. However, it’s important to remember that advancement is not the purpose of Scouting. Too often, I’m afraid, we focus so much on the earning of badges that we forget about the learning that leads to them.

Years ago, I came across a quote in a Cub Scout handicrafts book that I love: “It isn’t what the boy does to the board that counts; it’s what the board does to the boy.” Similarly, it’s not the badge on a Scout’s chest that matters; it’s the heart that beats beneath that chest.

This focus on badges isn’t new. In Aids to Scoutmastership, Robert Baden-Powell wrote:

There is always the danger of badge-hunting supplanting badge-earning. Our aim is to make boys into smiling, sensible, self-effacing, hardworking citizens, instead of showy, self-indulgent boys. The Scoutmaster must be on the alert to check badge-hunting and to realise which is the badge-hunter and which is the keen and earnest worker.

Unfortunately, many Scout leaders have become badge-hunters on behalf of their Scouts, only planning activities that lead directly to advancement. In doing so, they risk robbing Scouts of experiences that really matter, even ones as simple as exploring the world around them.

When I interview prominent Eagle Scouts for Eagles’ Call magazine, I always ask them about their favorite Scouting memories. Recently, I interviewed a man who’s active in promoting conservation and biodiversity, and he described an unusual memory: One time his troop was camping in a farmer’s pasture, and he and a friend used a seine to see what was swimming in the water. They were amazed by the abundance of life they found in ordinary water. He told me he still thinks about that simple activity when he’s working in the field.

Wouldn’t it have been a shame if his Scoutmaster has told him and his friend to quit fooling around because it was time to work on a merit badge?


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

The Power of Participation in Eagle Courts of Honor

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Sometime later this year, I expect to attend the Eagle court of honor for a young man who almost quit Scouting back in 2013. That was the year I gave him and his brother “Future Eagle Scout” pins that we’d been distributing at the National Eagle Scout Association‘s booth at the National Jamboree.

According to his dad, my young friend decided to stay in the program in part because of that pin. I can’t take credit for his decision to stay, however. I didn’t even know he was wrestling with the decision; I just happened to bring home a couple of extra pins.

I thought about that story recently when I read a Facebook post by an Eagle Scout from a decade ago who had been invited to participate in an Eagle court of honor for two members of his old troop. After the ceremony, he discovered that they were the two Cub Scouts he’d invited at the spur of the moment to participate in his own court of honor. The Scouts’ mother told him through tears that they had been about to quit Scouting but had changed their mind after participating in that ceremony.

If you’ve been a Scouting volunteer for more than a few months, you may have gotten tired of asking people to help out, either because you don’t want to burden them or because you’re tired of being turned down or because it’s just easier to do a job yourself (or leave it undone). That Facebook post should serve as a powerful reminder that involving Cub Scouts or younger Scouts in Eagle courts of honor has the potential to transform their lives in amazing ways.

As you plan your next Eagle court of honor, think of one or two Scouts whose participation could be transformative. Just be prepared to say yes when they invite you to their own courts of honor a decade from now!


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”