My parents owned a restaurant when I was a kid. It wasn’t big, but it was big enough to have a daily special and a handful of regulars that only stopped in for a cuppa’ and conversation. Needless to say, this was before coffee chains and computers made everyone head to the highway in the morning instead of down the two-lane town road that led to Doris’s Café.
I was nine, and bussing tables whenever I wasn’t in school because labor didn’t come cheaper than family. Since the Café paid the bills that put a roof over our head, I had a good reason to tie the apron on during the weekend rush.
My mom had a term she called ‘apron on apron off,’ which meant that the moment we pulled the strings tight, we were the person our customers expected us to be. We didn’t tell Bob that we had to fire Shelly for stealing from the till last night, or that my dad’s surgery didn’t go as well as we had hoped. And when Mr. Mondel, the gentleman who ran the bait and tackle shop busted through the front door cussing about his parking spot being occupied again, my mom taught me to smile and ‘kill him with kindness’ (which generally meant a free muffin and a cup of coffee as I escorted him back to his shop).
It was at that little restaurant where I learned some valuable lessons, and for me, these have carried over into Scouting – especially the rubs with Mr. Mondel. I came to understand that a bit of grace goes a long way, and when the apron was on, the reputation of the restaurant was everything.
In Scouting, there is no apron, but there is a uniform, and Scouting challenges us to abide by the Scout Oath and Law whether we’re wearing it or not.
There are several resources and articles written about Scouting’s Code of Conduct, (examples here and here) but I wanted to share with you what is at risk when we don’t make a conscious effort to follow the points of the Scout Law to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. With social media and such, I’m sure we’ve all read about less-than-ideal behavior from Scouting adults, however, the following case studies happened recently in our Council, thus the compulsion to have this candid – and somewhat uncomfortable – conversation.
Case Study 1:
The situation: Two units show up to a storefront sale at the same time and can’t come to an agreement, involve the store to find a solution, or simply argue at the scene.
The result: The store employees/manager is drawn into the argument. It becomes a hassle for the business and makes them look bad to their customers. As such, both Scouting parties were asked to leave, and subsequently, all future storefront sales were canceled by store management. Dozens of upcoming shifts were canceled halfway through the popcorn season. Those Scouts now need to find other opportunities and it is unclear if our Council will be allowed to return in the future.
What should have happened: The arriving unit/parent should have been courteous and left. No one blames the parent or Scout for being disappointed. If the two units cannot come to a solution, leave calmly, and reach out to your unit’s popcorn kernel, or district kernel for resolution.
Case Study 2
The situation: During a sold-out Scout Night Event at a local business, a Scouting family was disappointed with the group they were placed with. Seeking to be accommodated, it was reported by the venue the Scouting parent argued the issue with a venue employee.
The result: The venue politely declined to schedule another Scout Night. As of this writing, we are unsure if the venue will invite us back. There was a waitlist for the event, which means that the Scouting families wishing to participate in the future may not have the opportunity to. Additionally, Scout Nights are fundraising events where a portion of the costs is returned to Scouting, meaning that the income generated from this activity is also at risk.
What should have happened: Scout Nights are made for Scouts to have a fun or exclusive experience. The family should have chosen to be Cheerful and Friendly. The Scouters had a chance to make new friends in their assigned group and might have missed it. The night may not have turned out exactly as planned but arguing with venue staff certainly dialed down the fun for everyone involved and may have prevented us from hosting it in the future.
Case Study 3:
The Situation: The room a unit used at their Charter Organization’s facilities was occupied when Scouting leadership came to set up, and there was nowhere else available to move to on campus. The Scout Leaders expressed their anger and frustration to the occupants – who were not involved in Scouting nor had the authority to offer a solution.
The result: Anticipating the recharter season, the Chartered Organization has decided to end its relationship with the Unit.
What should have happened: Now, we’re not suggesting that this single event led to the charter’s end, but it certainly didn’t help. Still, the Scouting leadership should have been cheerful, kind, and – as much as we hate to use this term as adults when it applies to us – obedient. Errors happen in scheduling and preserving the relationships we have with the people who help make Scouting happen is paramount. Move the meeting outside, change the program to a trash pick-up event, or explore what nature happens around the organization’s building. After the meeting, contact your unit’s Chartered Organization Representative (COR) or Institution Head (IH) to verify future dates and reservations.
Case Study 4:
The Situation: A guest and their parent come to a meeting where a Scouting leader and another parent are having a heated discussion in the parking lot about Rank Advancement.
The result: While we’re not sure what happened between the unit’s adults, it was reported that the guest decided not to join Scouting because of what they witnessed.
What should have happened: A Scout is helpful. Acknowledge the miscommunication and set up a time to discuss the issue outside of the unit’s meeting. If necessary, reach out to your District’s Commissioner for assistance. Unfortunately, the guest will probably never return and may share their experience with others thinking about visiting any BSA unit.
And there are other tangible risks when adults don’t follow the Scout Law:
- The BSA is run by Volunteers. If our dedicated volunteers are treated rudely, they may not want to keep serving at your unit or at Council-level events.
- Scouts need to read and follow rules when on Camp properties. Driving around campsites instead of walking wears down camps and makes congested areas less safe for youth who are playing. Parking in areas other than designated parking areas reduces access for emergency vehicles.
- Policies exist to adhere to safety guidelines and insurance requirements. Ignoring or disregarding instructions from staff advisors not only sets a bad example to program youth and other Scouters but also could be against BSA policy which all exist to protect our Scouts from harm.
- A vast majority of the Alamo Area Council’s revenue comes from donations. Generous donors who make Scouting affordable for the youth served by our Council might just choose another organization to support with grants next time one is offered.
We all know that actions have consequences, but in Scouting, when parents and adult leaders are un-Scout-like, what may be an inconvenience for them, can result in lasting consequences for the kids – ALL OF THEM.
The Scouting program exists to provide today’s youth with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills, explore career paths, build civic responsibility, and a bond with nature. It is why the program has thrived for more than 100 years and continues to produce tangible results in the lives of young men and women. The program is meant to elevate entire communities. Your participation in this movement is critical to see the results we’ve come to expect from the Boy Scouts of America. Thank you for taking this journey with us, being a role model, a mentor, and living the Scout Oath and Law alongside us.