Scouting Life's Problems
golden cliff (c60clg1@CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Thu, 22 May 1997 20:03:31 -0500
There have been questions recently about dealing with serious problems
ranging from drinking and drugs to suicide. These types of problems are
relatively rare in Scouting, but they do exist.
When I first started as a Scoutmaster in 1976, I had a handful of
teenagers and one eleven year old. The eleven year old was named Kevin.
Kevin was a fantastic kid; intelligent, great sense of humor, fun loving,
and filled with energy. The older boys easily adopted him as their
little buddy. He was one of my favorite Scouts.
Kevin stayed in Scouting until age 16, when other interests drew him
away. He had the perfect family, was popular in school, and seemingly
had everything in the world going for him. At age 22 Kevin took his own
life. He is buried not far from my parents and grandparents, I often
visit his grave.
I've worked with three boys after their attempted suicide. One boy was
the victim of sexual abuse, another from alcohol and chemical addiction,
and the third was in foster care as a result of abuse and neglect from his
family. Scouting helped them. Two of those boys became Eagle Scouts.
A good friend lost his daughter to suicide. She was only 16 years old.
She was bright, beautiful, and popular in school. A witness said she
dropped her purse to the ground before stepping into the path of a high
speed freight train. A moment later her purse was all that remained.
These incidents are very disturbing and raise several issues but yield no
answers or lessons. At least I've never found any.
As volunteer Scouters we can teach the ideals of Scouting through our
everyday lives and the opportunities granted us through the Scouting
program. We can use Scouting to reach kids in a positive way.
I think if you believe in someone long enough, sooner or later they will
start believing in themselves. Yes, I know how corny that sounds, but I
still believe it's true, at least most of the time. Youth that act tough
on the outside still feel vulnerable on the inside. I don't believe in
"bad kids", only "bad problems". Attack the problem, not the kid.
There's still a need for rules and consequences, but they need to
understand we're hoping for their success, not waiting to pounce on
Faith isn't an additional cost, it's an additional investment of our
hearts. There's no guarantee we won't be hurt or disappointed, that's
always a risk. No matter how hard we believe in someone, they have free
will, we can't control what they think or do. Bad things can happen, life
doesn't always have Hollywood endings. Part of faith is to look
unflinching toward the good, and not be defeated by the bad.
As volunteers we are sometimes very limited in what we can do. Many
problems require intervention by trained professionals.
Someone once compared Scouters to lighthouses. They stand tall and send
out a bright focused beam of light warning of danger and guiding toward a
safe and a true route.
It's easy to become disillusioned after tragedy strikes or someone is lost
to serious problems. Those are times of trial. If we give up then, it
would be like extinguishing the light of a lighthouse because one ship was
lost. We see the one lost, we never know how many we've saved or have yet
There is no simple answer to problem kids. There are many variables and
they are often unique to each person and each situation. We
can't fix every problem, or for that matter even always understand them. We
can however focus our energies on providing a safe positive program and
believing in what we do. We can look for the best in each boy and try to
help him build a foundation on the finest attributes within him. We can
guide them and teach them faith and patience through our actions. We can
find the courage and strength to persevere even when all our best efforts
Some view Scouting as a science, others as an art. I see it as a calling.
How we each answer that calling can impact many young people.
The world is a place of beauty and truth, and also pain and danger. What
one sees and experiences is often determined by the route one takes.
Scouting presents a clear safe route for young people. We are the guides
along that route. There are no guarantees for success, there is only the
satisfaction of knowing we are doing our best. Millions have traveled
that route, millions more will follow. We see the individual faces, hear
their laughter, and experience the joy, pride, occaisional frustration, and
sometimes even pain along the way.
In all my years of Scouting I have always found far more joy and pride
than anything else. I guess the trick is to share that experience with
as many young people as possible. Joy and pride have a way of
extinguishing even the worst of problems.
Of course there's much more to it than that, but I've gone on too long
YIS, Cliff Golden
Scoutmaster Troop 33, Advisor Post 333
First Lutheran Church; DeKalb, Illinois
Three Fires Council BSA
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City