Last weekend I visited two district Klondike Derbies and spoke with several scouts and scouters about their experience. Two of my conversations caused me to reflect. In fact, they disturbed me.
The first was with a young man, a chartered organization representative, who was attending the event at the last minute because the group’s leadership, cancelled their participation in the Klondike Derby because the forecast called for light snow. The reason given for staying home? “It was going to be too cold. The boys wouldn’t have any fun.”
The second conversation was with district volunteer who was a member of the committee responsible for conducting the Klondike Derby. He noted that there were several troops who had planned on attending the camping activity but had also bailed out at the last minute. Reason? “There was no snow. The boys wouldn’t have any fun.”
Last Saturday I witnessed hundreds of scouts and scouters who were all having a great time in a light snowstorm. They were all playing on ground that was indeed mostly devoid of snow. After over 30 years involvement in scouting as an adult I’ve noticed that 11-13 year old boys, actually boys of all ages, rarely stop to consider the weather or the snowpack when it comes to deciding whether or not they’re having fun in the outdoors. They’re nearly always having fun!
Putting a date on the calendar for the troop’s monthly campout is really a kind of contract with the troop membership and their families. And when the adult leadership is practicing the boy scout motto by “being prepared” there are hardly ever conditions that would require the cancellation of a camping trip. At most, the decision might be made to change the location to the troop’s “plan-B” site because of conditions that might make camping or driving to the prime location hazardous.
When we cancel an activity we’re really sending the message to our boy scouts that we can only have fun, accomplish our goals, or do what we say we’re going to do if conditions outside make it easy to do it. Put another way: “When the going gets tough, the troop bails out .” No one really wants to send that message if they think about it and so it’s important for scouters to remember that the way we behave will have an impact on how our scouts will behave in the future. The way scouts observe adult leaders decide whether or not to follow-up on planned activities of the troop will very likely influence how they will follow-up with their own plans such as post-high school education, church service or career performance.
Decisions have consequences. Let’s all make sure the ones we make don’t result in sending messages we don’t intend.