My Favorite Court of Honor Life Hack

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Let me say at the outset that I’m not a card-carrying member of the uniform police. Although I like to see Scouts in correct uniform, my blood pressure doesn’t rise when I see the occasional patch out of place. And I certainly don’t get upset when a new Eagle Scout’s mom pins her son’s medal in the wrong spot.

Having said that, I’ve watched more than a few moms get to that pivotal moment in a court of honor when they do the pinning and panic. It’s like they fear  their sons will have to start their Scouting journeys anew if they mess up, like sewing on dozens of merit badges over the years hasn’t earned them a mulligan.

Fortunately, someone showed me a simple life hack years ago that neatly solves this problem: Before the court of honor, pin the medal on the Scout’s uniform in the right place–centered just above the left pocket–and then remove it. When you do, you’ll be left with tiny holes that will show Mom just where the medal should go during the ceremony.

So what life hacks have you discovered in planning courts of honor? I’d love to hear from you and share them with other Scouters.


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.”

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Scout Leader Lessons from the Wrong Side of the Road

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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 https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

When It’s Better NOT to Light a Candle

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“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.”

Putting out the Unwelcome Mat

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One of my favorite summer activities is a trip to a nearby farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. I love picking up fresh produce, listening to live music, running into old friends and grabbing a great cup of coffee. Plus, the market experience seems to make everyone happy.

Well, almost everyone.

The owners of the adjacent strip mall don’t like market patrons using their parking lot, so they put up signs every Saturday specifying that their lot is only for the use of their own customers. Now, I totally understand their need to save room for their customers to park, but I also have to think they’re turning away potential new customers with their signs. And market patrons tend to be upper-middle-income folks with money to spend; otherwise, why would they pay a premium for fresh local produce, meat, and eggs?

I’ve often wondered what would happen if the folks who run the strip mall decided to designate their lightly used side parking lot for market customers. Or if they signed on as sponsors of the market. Or if they set up fresh water stations on hot August Saturdays. Perhaps their stores would get to be as crowded as the market stalls.

It occurs to me that a lot of Scout troops think like those mall owners, intentionally or inadvertently turning away families with their inflexibility. This might happen when a Scout needs to leave a campout early to perform in a concert or when a Scout shows up to a meeting out of uniform because he just came from football practice.

When we put out unwelcome mats, we’re betting that our product is more appealing than the one down the street. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I would want to stake my troop’s future on that bet.


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.

Girls in Boy Scouting: What’s Your Plan?

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On Feb. 1, 2019, just over five months from this writing, the Boy Scout program will become Scouts BSA. For the first time ever, girls will be invited into the Boy Scouts of America’s flagship program, albeit in separate girl troops. (I hope this is not new news to you. If it is, you need to get out more!)

In some cases, girl troops will be fully functional come Feb. 1. For example, I recently heard from a Scouter whose new troop already has its number, its chartered organization and 10 adult leaders in place. They plan to start having leader meetings and informal gatherings with their future members this fall so that can hit the ground running come February.

In other cases, Feb. 1 will mark the starting point for planning, which means those troops might be up and running in time for summer camp four or five months later.

In still other cases, chartered organizations will opt to continue serving only boys, which is certainly their right.

Although it makes sense to try to achieve first-mover advantage–to be the first on your block to welcome girls–many experts say first-mover advantage is overrated. In the end, it’s probably better to do things right than to do them right now.

That said, every current troop and chartered organization needs to do something right now–and that’s to talk about what they intend to do. If you’re going to start a girl troop, begin the planning now; good resources are the BSA’s Family Scouting page and its Unit Performance Guide. (There’s also a more concise step-by-step guide at ScoutingWire.org, but the language hasn’t been updated to include girls.) If you’re not going to start a girl troop, make sure you know where in your district potential female members can go should they come knocking on your door. And by all means, make sure your troop and your chartered organization are on the same page. You shouldn’t surprise your chartered organization by welcoming (or turning away) girls, given that it’s really their choice to serve girls or not. And you certainly don’t want to end up in the news because a disagreement escalates.

There will undoubtedly be a few bumps along the road as Boy Scouting becomes Scouts BSA. Good communication and good planning can ensure that you don’t cause them.


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.

 

For Want of a Butterfly Clutch

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During World War II, a famous proverb was posted on the wall of the Anglo-American Supply Headquarters in London. It went like this:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The stakes aren’t quite that high when it comes to Eagle courts of honor, but that doesn’t mean you should pay less attention to your supply list as you prepare. I still cringe when I think about the time when, in the middle of one of our troop’s courts of honor, someone remembered that the Eagle badge kit was still sitting on the Scoutmaster’s desk out in our Scout house. Fortunately, I was able to hustle over and retrieve it in time.

Even if you never make that boneheaded mistake, it’s not at all uncommon for a butterfly clutch–the small bit of hardware that holds a lapel pin in place–to slip off a table and vanish in the carpet. In fact, a few spares should probably be on your supply list. (You can buy a lifetime supply on Amazon for $7.99.)

Speaking of supply lists, one of the nine planning checklists in The Eagle Court of Honor Book lists all the equipment and awards you should have on hand for each ceremony. I encourage you to make a copy and then, just like Santa Claus, check your list twice before your court of honor begins.


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.”

Scouting’s Secret Ingredient

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I live in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken. As you undoubtedly know, KFC uses a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices on its chicken. The internet tells me that those ingredients are salt, tellicherry pepper, white pepper, paprika, savory, sage, ginger, marjoram, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper–and the internet’s never wrong, of course!–but officially the recipe is a secret.

Louisville is also known for a product whose ingredient list is much shorter: bourbon. All bourbon includes is water, yeast, and a grain mix that contains at least 51 percent corn. That’s it.

Of course, if you mix up those ingredients and drink them, you aren’t going to have a very pleasant experience. Because it turns out bourbon actually does have a secret ingredient–or at least an ingredient that doesn’t appear on the list. That ingredient is time. You have to put all the other stuff in a new, charred oak barrel and let the mixture sit for 5, 6, or 7 years, depending on temperature and a bunch of factors I don’t understand.

Time is also Scouting’s secret ingredient. And, interestingly enough, 5, 6, or 7 years is about how much time you have to wait before you see the magic happening in our program.

The longer I’m involved in Scouting, the more I’m reminded that badges and camping trips and Dutch oven cobblers are nothing more than bait we use to keep kids in the program long enough for magic to happen. Some of those things may involve learning skills that spark career interests or unleash leadership potential, but most of them are far more subtle. Like the forging of friendships between Scouts that will last a lifetime and that will get those Scouts through all the trials of college, courtship, and career building. Or like the creation of mentor relationships where a Scout leader becomes a second mother or a stand-in father for a Scout who needs someone to believe in him.

So while it’s fine to think about uniforms and advancement and all the other trappings of Scouting, we should really put our efforts into doing whatever it takes to ensure that our Scouts hang around until, like fine bourbon, they are ready to be released into the world.


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.