On my credenza, among all the Scouting, Rotary and other “signature” mugs, my favorite reads: “I’m tired and I want a cookie.” Always when I look at this mug, it brings a smile, a smirk and, of course, a craving for a chocolate chip cookie. We all get weary now and then and need to know how to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and get moving again. It is amazing what a chocolate chip cookie just from the oven does for me. But that is not the topic of my thoughts today – it is what is INSIDE the mug that also lifts me – and it is the thought of each of you and the marvelous impact you are having on the rising generation across the country – one boy or one girl at a time.
But like I said, it’s what’s inside the mug that is most inspiring – a red and white boondoggle lanyard and a poem by Billy Collins that is a tribute to each of you:
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly-
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-clothes on my forehead,
and then led me out into the air light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift – not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-toned lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
Thanks to each of you for all you do to strengthen the youth of the noble birthright. They live in such a precarious world, filled with anger, bitterness, divisiveness, feelings of separation (more than just wearing a mask) and a lack of unity. It leads one to wonder what happened to these “united states.” There has, in my opinion, never been a time when the timeless values and life skills taught in Scouting are more needed by our youth than they are today. Just listen to the network news or read the morning paper and ask yourself what the world would be like if we had more adults who lived the values embodied in the Scout Oath and Law.
“On My Honor…” In a day of fallen giants (in the halls of government, business and major sports), never before has there been a greater need for honor and trust and integrity.
“I will do my best…” That means doing hard things; not taking the easy route; finishing a job completed; discovering, developing and using God-given talents, abilities and opportunities; and not stopping until the job is done and done well.
“…to do my duty…” President Monson often spoke of the importance of duty. He once said, “I love and cherish the noble word duty. President John Taylor cautioned us: ‘If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty.’ Another President, even George Albert Smith, said, ‘It is your duty first of all to learn what the Lord wants and then by the power and strength of His holy Priesthood to [so] magnify your calling in the presence of your fellows in such a way that the people will be glad to follow you.’ How does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.”
“…to do my duty to God…” As I spoke with a friend recently of our fathers’ experiences in the Pacific and European Theaters during World War II, he shared, “My father told me, ‘There are no atheists on the front lines.’” As I thought of that and its application to us today, I realize that in this war against hate, divisiveness, inequality, immorality, and growing lack of faith – we are all on the front lines. Doctrine and Covenants 58 reminds us:
…It is not meet that I should command in all things…men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men to good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” D&C 58:26-28.
“…to do my duty to my country.” It pains me as men and women degrade and desecrate the flag my father and millions of others have fought and died for. I see changes in the flag, flags flown upside down, flags not to emphasize “one nation, indivisible, under God,” but, rather, MY way or the highway. Our founding fathers, under the inspiration of a kind and just God, organized and founded this country in a manner that it could remain ONE UNITED STATES, while still providing for the freedoms and diversity recognized in the bill of rights. If we cannot be tolerant of others values without demeaning them individually, if we cannot discuss views and opinions without becoming personal and denigrating, if we cannot be patriotic without being “in your face” to those of other political views, and if we cannot habitually refer to others views as “evil”, we have greater problems facing this country than the threat from without – for most civilizations have been destroyed from within, by domestic unrest, unrighteous conduct and a lack of personal and community integrity and unity. Our youth must be taught the value of doing their duty to God and their country. They must understand and appreciate the sacrifices men and women of bygone ages have made that they might enjoy the freedoms and liberties that many so easily take for granted.
I could go on, but will not. You can do that as part of your weekly Scoutmaster Minutes. Thank you for mentoring and strengthening and teaching the youth of the rising generation. While they may not take time to thank you, I can promise you that in 5 or 10 or 20 years from now, they will be standing at a pulpit or before a group somewhere in the world and reflecting on their accomplishments and will express their appreciation to you, by name, for teaching them to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly; to believe in themselves and their capabilities; for believing in them; for modeling for them faith in God and duty to country; and for instilling in them the desire to serve others all their lives. God bless you for making a difference today, so they can shine and grow and serve tomorrow and into the future.