A Scoutmaster’s Minute for Troubled Times

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If I were a Scoutmaster right now, this is the Scoutmaster’s Minute I would give at this week’s troop meeting. Feel free to use it yourself. I think its message is both timely and timeless.


Scouts, we live in a challenging time, a time when all too often people settle their disputes with guns instead of words. Just look at the recent shootings of black men in several cities and of police officers in Dallas. But the problems go beyond these incidents, as tragic as they are. Everywhere you turn, it seems that you have to choose sides. Either you’re liberal or you’re conservative. Either you’re for Black Lives Matter or you’re for Blue Lives Matter. Either you like the Wildcats or you like the Cardinals. [Substitute your favorite sports rivalry here.]

It seems like there’s no middle ground, but in the middle is actually where most people live. The challenge is to find the middle ground when it’s easier to retreat to the safe corners where everybody looks and thinks like us.

The 1960s were another time where people were divided, especially about civil rights for African Americans. One of the leaders of the civil rights movement was a young Methodist pastor named James Lawson, who happens to be African American. (Yes, he’s still alive today!) In his book The Children, David Halberstam tells an amazing story about what Rev. Lawson did after a couple of protesters named Solomon Gort and Bernard Lafayette got knocked down by white counter-protesters in Nashville, Tennessee. I’d like to read it to you now:

Jim seemed nonchalant—just another day at the office. The leader of the whites was sporting what was the prevailing uniform of the day for white toughs: black pants, black leather motorcycle jacket, duck’s-ass haircut. When he saw Lawson he was enraged by Lawson’s coolness and he spat at him. Lawson looked at him and asked him for a handkerchief. The man, stunned, reached in his pocket and handed Lawson a handkerchief, and Lawson wiped the spit off himself as calmly as he could. Then he looked at the man’s jacket and started talking to him. Did he have a motorcycle or a hot-rod car? A motorcycle was the answer. Jim asked a technical question or two and the young man started explaining what he had done to customize his bike. Amazingly, Bernard thought, these two men were now talking about the levels of horsepower in motorcycles; a few seconds earlier they had seem to be sworn enemies, one ready to maul the other.
 
By this time both Solomon Gort and Bernard Lafayette were back up on their feet, the line was moving again, and Jim and the young man were still talking about the man’s motorcycle. In that brief frightening moment Jim had managed to find a subject which they both shared and had used it in a way that made each of them more human in the eyes of the other. As they walked away Jim waved to the man, and the man remained still, neither accepting the friendship nor, for that matter, rejecting it.
 Are there people in your life that you think you could never agree with, who you know are wrong because you are right? My challenge to you is to figure out what you have in common with those people. You may be surprised at what you discover.
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Scoutmaster Minute: National Signing Day

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Note: Occasionally on the blog, I post Scoutmaster minutes that you can use in your troop (or modify for use in other settings). Writing and delivering Scoutmaster minutes is one thing I miss about being a Scoutmaster!

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In the football world, an annual post-Super-Bowl ritual is national signing day, when high-school players announce their college commitments. This year, ESPN devoted 11 straight hours to covering the event. All day long, sportscasters talked about various 5-star recruits and the impact they’re going to make on their college teams.

The interesting thing is that some of them won’t make much of an impact. Instead, they’ll get in trouble off the field or fail to perform on the field or both. And some players whose names weren’t announced on national signing day will become stars.

I’m always fascinated to hear the stories of no-star recruits who end up making it big in college or the pros, people like Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers. Here’s how The Extra Drive blog describes Matthews’ impact on the Packers: “As a star outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, Matthews became the first Packer since RB John Brockington to earn Pro Bowl recognition in his first three seasons and the only player in Packers history to score a touchdown in his first three seasons. He is known as one of the most dynamic and versatile defenders in the NFL today.” Not bad for someone who didn’t get recruited out of high school and had to walk on at USC.

So what does all that have to do with you Scouts? You don’t have to be the best athlete to make the team. You don’t have to be the smartest person in school to finish at the head of your class. You don’t have to have the strongest background to become a success in whatever field you want to pursue. Talent and training are important, of course, but you also need what coaches like to call “the intangibles”: a strong work ethic, good values, a willingness to learn, a drive to succeed. With them, you can overcome challenges and achieve success.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Clay Matthews.