DOING A GOOD TURN… OR WORKING FOR PAY?
In addition to Scouting, I’m also a Rotarian; been a member of our local Rotary Club for a half-dozen or so years. Our club’s regularly on the lookout for ways we can help our community. Yesterday, I reached out to a local businessman who has organized a major event in town—an annual 5k race-walk that supports a wide range of causes in town—to ask if he could use some help at the event. He was delighted at the idea of our club members showing up to help, and then….
“Say, doesn’t your Rotary Club sponsor a couple of Boy Scout troops, too?” he asked.
“Yes, we do,” I confirmed.
“I’ve wanted to get the Boy Scouts involved in this event for some years. They could help check in runners and walkers, pass out water along the route, and help in other ways, too!” he speculated. “It would be great to have them there, and it would be great publicity for them!”
I agreed. “It sure would, and for something like this they can show up in uniform for some great photo ops!”
“And we can pay them,” he added. “They could use this as a way to earn money for their troops. We can set aside a portion of the funds we raise and give credits to all Scouts who show up and help!”
And that’s where the conversation sort of went sideways. “Let’s think about that a bit,” I ventured. “Many of us Rotarians were Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and the idea of helping others and giving to our community comes from that background. As Rotarians, we’re coming out with no expectations of reward; we’d be there to help. So why would Scouts get paid? Why would we want to invite them to work for pay when everyone else there is a volunteer, helping out for the sole reason of making a positive difference in our community?”
And that’s the rub.
Too often, I think, we tell Scouts, “Show up and get paid.” Or, “Show up and earn service hour credit.” Or even, “Complete your project and earn your Eagle rank.”
None of those embodies “Helping other people at all times.” None is “Helpful,” “Friendly,” “Kind,” or even “Cheerful.” They’re all in the category of teaching our young people how to work for pay.
Now working for pay is a fine thing; it’s how most all of us have pursued careers and life-work, supported ourselves and our families. But how many Rotarians, or Lions, or Kiwanians, or others—all willing to roll up our sleeves and get dirt under our fingernails with no thought of reward—would there be if all we’d ever been taught in our formative years was how to “work for pay”?
Maybe it’s time we stop teaching this. Maybe we need to spend more of our energies imbuing the ethic of helping simply because it’s the right thing to do.
The next time your troop decides to tackle a service project for your community, your sponsor, or beyond, consider simply telling your Scouts, “Let’s show up and help out because THIS IS WHAT SCOUTS DO.”
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to email@example.com. Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)
[No. 317 – 6/24/2012 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2012]