I was a Boy Scout as a youngster but only got to 1st Class. I thought my Scouting days were far behind me, but it seems they had just begun! After 20 years teaching history, I became a professional Scouter; I became an executive and Commissioned Officer in the Boy Scouts of America.
Yes, I worked for the BSA for almost 17 years.
My neighbors got a real kick out of me departing for work in my “field uniform” of olive and khaki, complete with shorts and high Red socks! They thought I got paid to go camping. That would have been fun, but I saw little of the great outdoors most days.
Fund raising days were all about 3 piece suits, business meetings and presentations on behalf of Scouting to the movers and shakers of Los Angeles.
Did you know that more than 4,000 men and women work full time for the Local Councils and the National Headquarters, funding the program, staffing camps and growing the organization of the Boy Scouts of America. It is still the largest youth organization in America and one of the largest in the world.
I was honored to be one of them. It is great calling. We taught a code of honor, civility, grace and above all making your word your bond.
Perhaps its just my perception, but it seems to me that we are in a very graceless age. There seems to be a lack of gentility, manners and that lovely lubricant of civilization called grace. Grace in the secular sense is carrying oneself with style, ease, self assurance and humility.
The graceful person does not scream, do inappropriate things to get attention and generally make a nuisance of themselves. They seem to glide through life, making all around them feel better, uplifted and refreshed. Things seem brighter and nicer just by being in their presence.
There is an inner serenity at the core of the quality called Grace. This quality understands that the world will not end if our candidate does not win, the planet will survive if our team loses the World Series or the College Championship. It is easy to be graceful when your side wins but can you congratulate the other side and wish them well with a smile? That is Grace, which is the essence of practicing Principle.
I believe that Grace is the ability to move through life as an Indian war canoe moves through water, barely rippling the surface and leaving no wake. Sometimes I think that so many of us have become “garbage scows” carrying our angst, dislikes and “ain’t it awfuls” with us, rather like a large blunt nosed garbage scow chugging down a canal, swamping any boat near it with its huge wake while offending the noses of all in the vicinity.
When I was an executive in the 80’s in the Los Angeles Area Council, Boy Scouts of America I would train our volunteers (Scoutmasters, Den Dads and Moms and other leaders) to teach good character and morality by symbols, metaphor and simile.
The war canoe and the garbage scow was one of these lessons. Move through life easily, quietly and efficiently like the war canoe; with a minimum of fuss and disruption. This is the quality of grace being brought down to a concrete level that youngsters can appreciate and understand.
Another great metaphoric story of Scouting was called a fence or an ambulance.
It seems there was a high cliff overlooking a magnificent vista way down in a deep valley. People came from miles around to enjoy the fabulous view but far too often they would venture too close to the edge and fall down that steep cliff into the valley; often being seriously injured. Some even lost their lives.
Something had to be done, but what? The townspeople debated and discussed and finally someone said: “lets put an ambulance down in the valley to pick up the fallen and perhaps save a life”.
Others exclaimed: why that is ridiculous! The answer is to put a fence along the top of the cliff to keep people from falling. The people favoring the ambulance were furious and accused those favoring the fence of being heartless.
What are the lessons here for our current condition in America? Perhaps we need to have more war canoes and less garbage scows. Protests, sore losers and screamers are garbage scows, upsetting all around them and creating chaos. Grace, tranquility and character are the lubricants of society. Anger, fear and hatred are the sand thrown in the engine of society and civility.
As for the fence or the ambulance; if we build more fences to prevent disaster and harm we won’t need the ambulances and the fence is a damn site less expensive. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
In other words, teach our children common sense, good sound values, a code of honor and watch the needs for the “ambulances” disappear. Give them a strong dose of self-esteem laced with a bit of humility, a passion for liberty and dedication to what is right in all things. If we do this the “ambulances” will soon disappear.
I propose that we come together as Americans: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Straight, Gay, LBGT, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Native Americans, Protestant, Catholic,Jews, Muslims and Buddhist and whatever constituency in our fractured society that I may have left out. Let’s emphasize our Oneness as Americans and stop this tribal fracturing of our society.
Let’s treat each other as brothers and sisters sharing a magnificent nation that we can recreate in the image of love by working together. How about seeing the Good wherever it exists? Let’s remember that we are all the children of God and that our job is to hold in Mind the highest and the best for every one of our brothers and sisters; all over the planet. That includes those we abhor and dislike.
Rev. Dore’ Jacques Patlian, Sarasota, Florida and I am a Religious Scientist.