Scout Leader Lessons from the Wrong Side of the Road


This year, my wife and I traveled to the UK on vacation. Since we wanted to visit several cities (and quite a few villages), we rented a car.

Now, you probably know that Brits drive on the left side of the road, but you may not know that they have roundabouts at most intersections and lots of narrow roads boxed in by head-high hedges. At one point, we were on a road so narrow that we could literally reach out either side of the car and touch the hedges. And that was a two-lane road! (Bonus tip: never drive down a road marked “unsuitable for HGVs,” which stands for heavy goods vehicles.)

But what really got my attention was something I wasn’t prepared: how fast things seemed to be coming at me. It felt like the world had switched to fast-forward. I barely had time to read the often-cryptic road signs, shift gears, pick the correct lane in the roundabouts, absorb what my GPS was trying to tell me, and avoid the hedges and oncoming trucks. By day three or four, however, the world had slowed down to more or less normal speed, and I began to enjoy the adventure.

Upon reflection, I realize I probably felt the way all new drivers feel–and the way our Scouts feel when they try to master a new skill for the first time, whether that’s cooking over an open fire or planning a troop meeting. As Scoutmaster, I often got frustrated when my patrol leaders’ council would take 20 minutes–20 minutes!–to decide which patrol would do the opening and closing at a single troop meeting or when a patrol would take two hours to cook a simple breakfast of pancakes and bacon (and another hour to wash the dishes). But I now realize I was looking at their world through my eyes.

Does that ever happen in your troop? Perhaps you should think about how you become more patient when you see a student driver on the road and imagine your Scouts wearing signs that say “camp cook in training” or “apprentice leader.” If you do that, I can guarantee that the world will quickly slow down to normal speed for them, just like it did for me in the UK.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at


When It’s Better NOT to Light a Candle


“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Lots of people have been credited with that saying, including Confucius and Eleanor Roosevelt, and there’s certainly plenty of wisdom packed into those dozen words. But sometimes it’s better not to light a candle–and I don’t mean just when you’re worried about setting off a smoke detector.

Recently one of my readers wrote to me looking for ideas for using an unlit candle in an Eagle court of honor. His goal was to use the candle to represent the future potential of the ceremony’s honoree.

Here’s what I came up with:

Earlier this evening, Scouts lit the candles you see here on this table as a reminder of the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law, principles that shine brightly in the heart of our honoree. But there’s one more candle on the table, and it remains unlit. It represents the journey our honoree is beginning today. No one can know where his journey will take him, who he will serve along the way, or how he will live as an Eagle Scout. But one thing is sure: When he lights this candle, he will help to illuminate some of the dark places in our world. He will exemplify the old proverb that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness and these familiar words from the Bible: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Feel free to use or adapt this language for your next court of honor. And let me know what you think; I’m always interested in hearing from you.

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.”