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Community Service or quid pro quo?

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  • Community Service or quid pro quo?

    The I&P discussion about the Vermont situation raised what I think is an important question regarding community service...but I would like to keep this question out of politics and more in the realm of what the scouting ideal should be.
    So should there be an expectation of some kind of payback or quid pro quo for community service? Should a decision to do service to the community depend on the presence or absence of some kind of unit or personal benefit other than the sense of satisfaction of a job well done or personal accomplishment?
    How does this question interact with the concept of 'scout spirit'?

    I will apply the fickle finger of fate if the comments cross a fuzzy line into the realm of political comment. Try to keep focused on scouting ideals and not the dirty realm of politics.

  • #2
    My expectation is just fairness, specifically that our scouts are not punished for the acts of others beyond their control. No quid pro quo.
    Last edited by RememberSchiff; 07-03-2014, 11:55 AM. Reason: replaced respect with fairness


    • #3
      The Good Turn is supposed to be done without any regards to getting something in return.

      Service projects. however, often get translated back to fulfilling advancement requirements, totals accumulated by the council office, and helping out CO because they are footing the bill on a lot of the unit's activities. There's no "fuzzy line" there for me. I know the difference between community service and service projects. It's kinda like: do you clean up your room, make your bed and help around the house because you are a member of the family or because you're getting paid an allowance.

      Any time someone does a real "Good Turn" it seems to be recorded and out there in the social media as viral. It just doesn't happen very much.

      I don't know if it is a cultural thing of the past or whether it was the place/family I grew up in, but I still today find a couple of opportunities each day to do a random act of kindness. Nowadays, however, it's fun just because of the astonishment I get out of people.

      Hmmm, I wonder if there is a difference between a Real Good Turn and a Paper Good Turn, i.e. I do a good turn because it looks good on paper, or I get it checked off my requirement for advancement.



      • #4
        I suppose the easy answer is no, there should not be an expectation of payback. That said, part of building character in boys is making sure they also understand they don't have to allow themselves to be taken advantage of. That line, in the real world, is much harder to draw than the hypothetical line your question poses. It's when the ideals are in conflict that the character of the person is forged.


        • #5
          jblake47: "I don't know if it is a cultural thing of the past or whether it was the place/family I grew up in, but I still today find a couple of opportunities each day to do a random act of kindness."
          Me too. As for the 'real' versus 'paper' good turn, this is to me a tough question about altruism. I think philosophers have not yet answered that as there truly anything that is purely altruistic? I'd like to respond, 'yes' but without the ability to 'see' into someone's mind I just can't be certain. I know that when I do my first good turn each day, while I have no expectation of anything from that elderly neighbor, the good feeling I get from having done a nice thing is still 'payback' of sorts. I'd feel incredibly guilty if I didn't do that for her.

          But this is focused on a group decision and action. In the past, my cub scout den decided to help with a shoreline cleanup effort. A property owner, seeing us on public land in front of her house, was quite rude to us. If we had just walked away, that lake shore would have remained littered with trash and we would have gained...what? Our dignity? A good feeling for 'having shown her'?
          We completed the cleanup and I explained to the boys that she was probably just having a bad day. They understood. The only real 'loser' in that was the rude lady.

          dcsimmons, I agree. Things get a lot more complicated and what we thought was clear in our youth, we later learn to be quite complex. But WE had to start with youthful simplicity and I suspect that's where most of the boys are right now too.


          • #6
            RememberSchiff, it is just fine to expect fairness as long as we keep in mind that we often don't get what we expect. What I think we should ALWAYS expect is to be fair to others and 'true' to ourselves. And that doesn't require 'fairness' from anyone else at all.


            • #7
              Altruistic? Yep, I do a lot of my Good Turns because it makes me feel good. I enjoy working with kids, does that make me a poor volunteer because I'm getting something out of it? There's a lot of volunteer work I have abandoned over the years because after a while it was no longer fun. I just found other fun things to fill in the spaces.



              • #8
                Originally posted by packsaddle View Post
                RememberSchiff, it is just fine to expect fairness as long as we keep in mind that we often don't get what we expect. What I think we should ALWAYS expect is to be fair to others and 'true' to ourselves. And that doesn't require 'fairness' from anyone else at all.
                We disagree. I do expect the Golden Rule to go both ways.


                • #9
                  Seems to me that the Golden Rule is meant to humble us and is not meant to serve as a means of fair exchange. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is just not the same as do unto others as they have done to you. It's really more of a hope that the Golden Rule will go both ways rather than an expectation.

                  I think we all hope that service to others is innate but I think it's learned. We learn it from our parents, from our teachers, our pastors, or neighbors, our peers. We see an example and follow it. I know that there have been a lot of discussions about whether service projects is really community service or doing a good turn when the lads get credit for it for advancement but I think we have those discussions because we come at it from our mature view of community service as being an unselfish act that should need no reward. Perhaps instead we should look at it as part of a progression of learning to become that servant leader, or that servant follower, or that servant individualist.

                  I'll invoke the OA here - I think I've put it this way before but it seems apt to my thinking of learning to serve as a progression.

                  An Ordeal member is handed a broom and told to sweep.
                  A Brotherhood member asks if he can help sweep.
                  A Vigil member picks up a broom and just starts sweeping.

                  At some point during that progression, we learn enjoy service to others as it's own reward and don't expect a quid pro quo. When a service project is predicated on something happening before or after, then it's really not a service project, it it? It's a job that is being paid for. If you've been doing a specific service project for a few years like cleaning a park every year because you get to use the swimming pool one night for free then refusing to clean the park the year the pool has closed for maintenance, then it's not really a service project, is it?
                  It's also not a very good example of following the Golden Rule.

                  Being part of the Boy Scouts of America makes it even more imperative that we offer our services willingly, even if things aren't going the way we expect them too - after all, we have a 100 year + reputation of community service to uphold. How would it have looked if the Boy Scouts refused to take part in the scrap metal drives during WW2 if they refused to collect the metal unless the community gave them a pizza party at the end of the week?


                  • #10
                    Who is asking for a pizza party or any compensation or even a thank you? We just want to be treated fairly, believe me, I remember when we were.


                    • #11
                      "is there truly anything that is purely altruistic?"

                      The short answer is "no" - as Stosh notes, doing nice things make him feel good about himself based essentially on how he was raised. In fact, I don't believe it's possible to do anything that isn't done because you "gain" something from doing it. Most of the time, these gains are not tangible or maybe even measurable - you don't get paid or get a dozen eggs in trade. It's a "good feeling" or you just want to.

                      We do a lot of small things for our CO, in fact any time they ask in addition to whatever we can think of before they ask. We want to have good relations, they see us as a partner in their mission and vice-versa. Ditto in the larger community - what I believe we get from that is community visibility, an area where I believe Scouting generally is not as strong as it should be. It's easy to think someone you've never met is some kind of ogre. Just as everyone thinks Congress as a whole is a mess, but keeps re-electing their own Congressman, so Scouts is easy to dislike as a faceless institution, less so as "those guys that helped with our Concert in the Park."

                      I also encourage our Patrol Leaders to seek out opportunities at food banks, soup kitchens and the like. It's part of the expected ethic.

                      In the end, we "get something" out of all these efforts, but we would never make some tangible benefit an expectation for our help.


                      • #12
                        There's not a quid-pro-quo.

                        But, if you are not welcome as a vendor, why would you feel welcome as a volunteer? In the case of Montpelier, the two actions were not purely on opposite dimensions (fundraising vs. service). They were both forms of self-promotion.

                        I honestly wouldn't be surpised if half of the scouts show up out-of-uniform to help anywhere they are needed anyway -- thus avoiding the political magnifying glass. If you've been made a spectacle of by virtue of your association, why would you subject your kids to more of the same just a couple weeks later?

                        I've been in situations where I could have put scouts in the spotlight. (Fortunately they weren't political in nature.) It might have got us a couple of grand at a critical time. But, in each case I could tell the youth involved were not comfortable with the whole "poster-child" role. So, contrary to some very strong suggestions by adults, I steered clear of media attention.


                        • #13
                          I got to thinking about this two-way street for the Golden Rule. I've never thought of it as a two-way street. The Rule is for me and me alone. What I do doesn't have anything to do with "the other guy". Do I follow the Golden Rule only if I know it will be reciprocated? That's not much of a Rule in that case. If one is focused on the Golden Rule from Scripture, one must also take into consideration that those that do good only for friends and family are pretty much coming up short on the Rule's expectation.

                          Nope, the Rule's only for me, what I do isn't dependent on anyone else but me and I'm accountable to only me as well.



                          • #14
                            Children learn what we teach. Most "charitable" fundraisers nowadays, at church, school, sports, and scouts, have some sort of personal payoff for the kids.

                            Service hours are not just for advancement, anymore. We also have them for Confirmation and graduation requirements. Everybody is getting in on the act.

                            What used to be cheerfully and anonymously dropped into a collection basket is now in a computer coded envelope, recorded and reviewed annually. Quid pro quo religion.

                            This is the world we have created and live in. I can't blame the kids one bit for learning what we have taught them.


                            • #15
                              jblake47, I agree.
                              David, I can't disagree with what you just wrote but it does still beg the question, regarding this thread topic, what do you think we SHOULD teach them?