“I was a boy once.”
With those words, Lord Robert Baden-Powell of Gilwell launched the Boy Scout movement.
That movement founded by Baden-Powell in the United Kingdom over 110 years ago soon worked its way to the United States where it has seen nearly 110 million American participants since – all because Baden-Powell vividly remembered what it was like to be a young boy and his fervent desire to see young boys grow into quality adults.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has become an enduring national crusade that is also intricately woven into the remarkable tapestry of San Juan County (SJC).
The first scout troop in the county was organized in 1917, Troop 311 of Blanding. Since that very moment, Scouting has reached nearly every corner of the county with its duty to God, country, and self at the forefront, paid for with hard work, sacrifice, time, perseverance, blood, and treasure. It has been a force for good in many a youngster’s life, not to mention many an adult, too.
Well known are the merits of Scouting: character development, leadership development, duty to God, citizenship, personal fitness, learning to survive and thrive in and gaining a healthy respect for the outdoors, service, achievement, perseverance, and social skills, to name just a few.
BSA has had many sponsors, the very first being the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a partnership that began in 1913 and has continued for over 105 years. Most of the BSA units in SJC have been sponsored by the Church.
But, that partnership will end in January 2020, leaving the fate of scouting in SJC in question.
The Church, desiring a program for its youth that puts equal emphasis on girls and boys, and aspiring to reach youth around the world in different countries and cultures, made the decision mutually with BSA to end their ties 18 months ago.
This decision leads one to consider the effects of all those years of Scouting in San Juan County. Though difficult to measure, one likes to think that scouting’s influences have been colossal.
“One step toward happiness,” said Baden-Powell, “is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man.”
How much influence then, has Scouting and its emphasis on duty to God and country had on the number of soldiers from the county who have served and are serving in the military, including those brave, valiant souls who gave their lives for their country since 1917, honored just this week?
Were their desires to serve their country nurtured while trekking our magestic mountains and cavernous canyons?
In addition, how much happiness in life can be attributed to a love of the outdoors, a hallmark of the “school of the woods” as Baden-Powell called it?
It would be impossible to number the nights spent out under the stars, the number of campfires gathered around, the number of moments of contemplation of one’s place in the universe in these 105 years of Scouting or to determine the extent of the self-reliance and confidence that has come from excelling in the outdoors, drawing close to nature and one’s Creator.
Was a reverence for God, man, and oneself nurtured in those wondrous nights under the vivid stars of heaven?
What part of the success of business communities in the county can be traced to lessons learned while earning hundreds of thousands of merit badges marked by boys spending quality time with experienced, quality adults, proficient in their fields?
Consider also all those 110 years of service and service projects. How many flags have flown from flagpoles planted by young citizens?
How many bridges and cemeteries and city parks and schools and campsites and historic sites were improved as a result?
Furthermore, how have marriages and families benefited from Scouting values – trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, preparedness, daily service?
And what of all those scouts who took that influence and those values and excelled elsewhere? The wonder of Scouting is not just its influence on boys, but its sway on adults, many of whom had been scouts themselves, who taught the “BP Way” to the next generation of boys.
“Indeed,” shared Baden-Powell, “the Scoutmaster in introducing the boy to [Scouting], incidentally brings upon himself a share in that same happiness and usefulness. He finds himself doing a greater thing than possibly he foresaw in taking up the job, for he finds himself rendering a life-worth Service for Man and God.”
Can you measure the strength, goodness, and fruitfulness of relationships, brotherhood, and friendships that exist among adults involved in scouting?
Can a commitment to deliver the promise of scouting, to provide the excitement that a boy expects from scouting, positively influence an entire community, an entire county, a country?
Have the countless hours of scouting service given by thousands to deliver the promise, a life-time of service in many instances, made a difference?
The answer is a resounding yes but, what of this promise, once Scouting programs in San Juan County are few or even nonexistent?
Lord Robert Baden-Powell of Gilwell had the answer a centennial ago and said it best in his last message, “Try to leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best.
“‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy. Stick to your Scout Promise Always – even after you have ceased to be a boy – and God help you to do it.”
It is safe to say that the legacy of Scouting, so prominent in the county these many years, will continue to live on. The BP Way is not just something that was followed a few weekends a year, but is a way of life that continues on, that is enduring.
Scouting values are worth living and sharing, and will continue to be so, simply because we were all boys and girls once.