The Boy Scout Handbook talks about each point in the Scout Law and provides a definition for each point. The Scout Law with the Scout Oath provides the basis for Scouts and Scout leaders to guide their thoughts and actions and becomes the basis for a life of ethical living.
Knowing the meaning of a point in the Scout Law is one thing. Being able to implement or put ethics in action is another. For example, Boys may know what being friendly means, but putting in place a culture of friendliness within a patrol that leaves a legacy from year-to-year is quite a different matter. Teaching boys the practicum of being friendly that creates this legacy is the challenge for the eleven-year-old (EYO) Scoutmaster. The truth is, boys know what it means to be friendly, but have never thought to stop and think through the steps or to have a vision of what friendliness look like. In this blog, I would like to share a few ways to teach and model friendliness.
For me, it starts with calling someone by name. Calling someone by name is powerful and has amazing impact on an individual’s since of belonging. For example, in greeting people there is a stronger message of friendliness when we say: “Bob, it is so good to see you.” when we shake their hand, vice the shorter salutation, “Good to see you.” As the EYO Scout leader, teach your boys to stop what they are doing when someone arrives. Take the time to great them AND call them by name. And of course, know how to respond to a greeting is just as welcoming. There is just as powerful an impact when Robert responds back to Bob: “Good to see you too, Bob.”
Now this all may sound like a Miss Manners instructive guide, and in a since, it is. Learning early how to strongly show friendship is an important lesson in life for the EYO Scout to learn. The EYO Scoutmaster has a definite role in teaching his EYO Scouts not just that Scouts are friendly, but also the acts of friendship that establish and reinforce through actions the sentiment behind those actions.
As a practical matter, how does the EYO Scout leader implement a plan to teach, “a Scout is friendly?” I like to use the Scout leadership style of joining. For example, as a Scout arrives saying, “Look, Bob has arrived. Let’s go say hello.” Then, stopping everything else and everyone greeting the new arrival and calling them by name. Hearing everyone call you by name has a powerful impact on the newly arriving Scout.
I have used this technique with my Scouts. Years later I receive feedback from the boys on what this did for them. The story often went that they had a bad day, but all that changed when they arrived for Scouts because the other Scouts made them feel so good when he got there. Others would relate that they could not wait to go to Scouts because everyone was always so friendly.
The point is, much of our desire to be somewhere or with someone is based on our sense of belonging. Being friendly and showing friendship firmly establishes a Scouts sense of belonging and kindles as strong desire to attend each and every meeting. You will never have to worry about competing with sports activities if your Scout meetings are emotionally warm and friendly places where a boy’s sense of belonging is established and reinforced weekly.
Programmatically, this extends to rising EYO Scouts who as Webelos will be visiting the EYO Scout patrol as part of their Arrow of Light rank requirements. Each year I would make sure I would have a list from the Primary President of all the Primary boys who were ten years old. I would share this list with my EYO Scout patrol leader. Together, we would develop a plan to invite the Webelos to EYO Scout meetings as well as plan for the patrol to develop how they would begin to get to know the new, soon to be members, of their patrol. Their plan often included learning and knowing the names of all the boys who will join the patrol and then, greeting them in school and at church, and developing a list of questions to ask them to get to know them better.
These are just a few of the things to do to teach boys that friendship is something we plan for. Scouting is the Gospel in action, and we as Scout leaders have the responsibility to not only teach boys what the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law are, but also how to implement these principles in their lives. Once you have this in place, it will become a legacy that will perpetuate itself. As these boys become Deacons, Teachers, and Priests, they will continue to act friendly not only to their fellow Church members, but to others in their lives.
-Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.