Saturday, September 26, 2009


Having seen Everett Winn show us his cherished hiking stick collection at the Interfaith Service last weekend, it got me thinking about things that I keep around – my collections. Like Everett, there are certain things that mean a great deal to me. None of my things would get serious attention on Ebay, but they are priceless to me. Each triggers a certain memory of a special occasion or important person in our life:

  • My mother helped me start my plate block stamp collection when I was 7 years old
  • The patches recall a hundreds of scout activities over the last 40 years.
  • The neckerchiefs were traded with people I met at the World Jamboree

Last night, I had a chance to exhibit some of my collections. Our first Pack Meeting of the school year was themed around “collections”. Nine types of collections were displayed on tables for a gathering activity and the boys were asked to rank them from most to least favorite. These collections were all mine and I was curious to see what grade-school boys thought was interesting these days.

It was no big surprise to discover that the highest ranked collections were shiny (crystals, old pennies, and hiking medals.) Less popular were my most prized collections of stamps, neckerchiefs, and patches. After hearing of their thoughts about my stuff during a group discussion, I asked them what they collected. Their answers included state quarters, Legos, and Pokeman items. There was one future comic who said he collected albums from the Beatles and Black Sabbath.

The most important collections we keep are not physical things that you put in a box and look at once in a while. Rather, they are relationships and memories of people. As a scout leader, you will encounter dozens of youth through the years. Your favorite memory of each person will be different. It might be teaching a new skill to a Cub Scout, the excitement of a scout receiving his First Class badge, or hearing a Venture Scout tell you about their plans for college.

A collection of good memories and friendships is your reward for all those hours invested in scouting. It is a collection that you will treasure. A special memory of you and all the cool experiences will likely be part of your scouts’ collections too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Power of a Ticket

A couple times during Weekend One, I made a reference to the 2007 World Jamboree. Since those were just glancing references, let me follow up and add some context. My interest in attending this event started with what I thought would be weakest ticket item as part of my vision that as a Cub Pack Committee Chair:
“I will be a more effective leader and as a result my Pack will have a better program.”

As with all 21st Century Wood Badge participants, we were “asked” to have at least one ticket that spoke to diversity. I struggled with this concept since my downtown pack was already diverse by most standards. Having seen the World Friendship Fund collection as part of the Day 3 service, I decided to check out who was to benefit from this money. Searching the internet, I discovered that nearly every country had scouting and that scouting programs were connected by an organization called the World Organization of the Scout Movement. My interest was piqued and I decided that one way to bring diversity to my unit was to introduce them to scout customs in other countries.

Over the next year, I crafted a month of programs for the dens which culminated in our Blue and Gold Banquet – with the theme Scouts around the World. During the month, the boys played games from other countries, made table centerpieces out of the other scout logos, and wrote letters to a Cub Pack in Australia. It became so interesting to me that I started to collect patches from other countries and did my first large watercolor featuring logos from scout programs (boys and girls) from around the world. My weak ticket had become a personal passion that hopefully expanded my pack’s view of the world.

Three years after my ticket was complete, I kept that newly-found interest going by signing up to attend the World Jamboree in England. If there was ever one to go to, it would be this one – celebrating the 100th anniversary of scouting’s birth. For three weeks I was assigned to be one of 8000 International Service Team members. This group’s purpose is to make the camp function so the youth and their leaders would have a great experience. Specifically, my job was to walk the beat as a steward (their name for security guard/information officer) with my team members from Pakistan, Switzerland, and Great Britain. When not working, I took my sketchbook and sat down to draw some of the things around the site. Invariably, a scout would be curious and come look at my sketch. It was a great way to start a conversation and after a few minutes, I’d present the scout with a council strip from the Heart of Virginia. After 20 days of rotating shifts, 200 miles of walking, and meeting at least 1500 people from 50+ countries, I had the full multi-cultural experience.

The most meaningful memory for me was not one of the big production shows or even guarding a future King of England. It was the simple act of donating my new Jamboree tent to the delegation from Zambia. One of their leaders shared a need for any kind of equipment that would help new scout units in their country. After carefully folding it up on the last day, I quietly put it at the simple signpost that marked the entrance to the Zambia camping area.

Baden-Powell’s vision for scouting was to see scouts from around the world united in peace and sharing a spirit of brotherhood. The power of scouting became very real to me that day – and showed me that what I took away from the Jamboree was not as important as what I could leave behind. That “weak” ticket item from Wood Badge became pretty great.