The Game Of Risks

Chuck May Scoutmaster's Minute

Jonathan Simpson Eagle Ceremony

15 October 1994

When Jonathan called to ask if I would do the Scoutmaster's Minute, he asked if I would mind doing a serious speech, instead of my usual one. I'm certainly flattered that he asked, but a little insulted. All my Scoutmaster's Minutes were supposed to be serious.

I have often talked in the past about the fact that an Eagle Scout is not something that you become, but rather is something you are. This afternoon, though, I would like to talk about why we want you to be an Eagle.

You see, the things that you do as a Scout - hiking, camping, canoeing, games, badges - are not the reasons for Scouting. When Lord Baden-Powell started the Scouting program in 1907, he realized that the boys of his time, and of all times, would not freely join an organization just because it was good for them, any more than they would eat broccoli just because it was good for them. So he defined Scouting as a game.

As the 1947 Scoutmasters' Handbook says,

"Yes. To a boy, Scouting is a game - a wonderful game, full of play and full of laughter, keeping him busy, keeping him happy. That's the strength of Scouting! A boy becomes a Scout for the sheer joy there is in it.

"To you and me Scouting is a game, also - but it is more than a game of fun. To us, it is a game with a purpose - The purpose of helping boys to become men."

This purpose of Scouting is three-fold: To develop Character, Citizenship, and Fitness. We do that by putting you into situations in which, we hope, you will have fun. But at the same time, you will be learning little lessons, and growing, without really knowing it.

If every month we hiked five miles along the C&O Canal from Swain's Lock to Seneca Creek, you (and I) would find that pretty boring, and eventually you would stop coming. But consider Jonathan's career - he started on the Canal, as most of us did. Soon he was climbing Old Rag, and hiking to Annapolis Rock on the Appalachian Trail. Before he knew it he had hiked all of the AT in Maryland, and earned the right to trek to the Philmont Scout Ranch in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of New Mexico. That was the fun part.

But along the way, with each new hike he got stronger; with each new meal he cooked along the trail, he got more self-reliant; with each new boy he encountered, he developed leadership; with each piece of trash he picked up along the trail, he developed citizenship; with each new challenge he met, he developed character.

And the genius of Baden-Powell's idea is that, most of the way along his journey, Jonathan didn't even know it was a journey - he just thought he was having fun.

You all know from playing Doom that, with each level the game gets better, but it also gets harder. Except that, in Scouts and in life, you don't automatically move to the next level. You have to make a definite decision to play in a tougher level, but with greater rewards. Learning to take risks, and to make difficult decisions correctly, is one of the cornerstones of character. You accepted the risk of falling down in order to ride a bike without training wheels.

Jonathan accepted the challenge of becoming a leader, to try for Eagle. Eventually you will make a decision to leave the security of your home and family to make your own life. You will accept the challenges of marriage and parenthood in order to get the rewards that they bring. And I hope that some of you will accept the risks and make the commitment to become Scout leaders - for the reward comes in seeing a boy develop into a man before your eyes.

Now, this leads me to that one essential element of any ceremony involving the Simpson - the obligatory poem. It's called, "The Boy Scout"

You'll find him on a mountain trail

Well off the beaten track

Adventure mirrored in his eyes

His world within his pack

You'll find him when disaster strikes

With grime upon his face

You'll also find him deep in thought

In some secluded place

You'll find him where the campfire glows

And friendship fills the air

Just seek the brotherhood of men

You're sure to find him there

You'll find him here in each good turn

Content to do his part

But most of all you'll find him etched

On some Scoutmaster's heart.

All of you, of course, are etched on your Scoutmasters' hearts. The Eagles of this Troop have a special place on mine. These boys -- from Dave through Sam, then Jonathan, to be followed by Keppy and Sean, to be followed by boys who may not have even made Tenderfoot yet -- are not important to me because they learned to tie a square knot or build a fire. I won't remember how many merit badges they earned. In fact, even making Eagle is really not important. What is important is that Jonathan, like all the Eagles, has learned that character, citizenship, and fitness are qualities that were inside him all along.

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Chuck May, 1996

ChuckMay@may-engineering.com

May be distributed freely, with attribution, for non-commercial use within the Scouting community.

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