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Community Service or quid pro quo?

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  • #16
    With each opportunity for service or a "good turn" there is always various levels of return received, from a simple thank you, to treats or a non-monetary reward such as food or free access to an event such as a fair, to public recognition in certificates and such. But payment for service in actual monies or major tangible goods takes it out of the service designation and into the fund raising area.

    So, once we have determined whether it is real service or a fund raiser, then we can pass judgement. From my perspective, it is too often an expectation of free labor when we are approached for "service" directly. We may or may not offer to help, depending on the circumstances and expectations, the absence of other than minor political associations that are unlikely to suggest our support, as well as the more legal issues and safety concerns involved in some activities. Ultimately, it is up to the youth to decide, as long as we have assurance it is safe and something they feel they want to do. And NO scout, scouter, or parent should ever be expected to participate in these projects if they have personal concerns.

    Now, in the specific situation that led to this discussion, there are a number of considerations. First, is approval to sell something, such as water in this case, contingent on the approver's expectation of cleanup or other service before or after the event? If so, then it is not service to begin with, as getting permission to fundraise depends on the "service". Indications are that they are two separate activities in the specific instance. So, one could occur without regard to the other. Where the problem arose was that the City Council altered the simple permit application by adding a political element to entertaining and approving it. So, even going to a second hearing would be putting the units into a political situation which is unfair to the application process unless ALL other applicants are also required to fulfill similar requirements, and BSA is supposed to be apolitical.

    That leaves us with the cleanup efforts after the event. If, it was not for the fact that publicity had already put the spotlight on the Scouts, they likely could have done the service as in the past, receiving minor acknowledgement and hours for advancement, school, and such. But the Council had painted a red letter on them, and there would likely have been strong possibilities of verbal harrassment, as well as support. The leaders, in my opinion, made the right call in this situation.

    Ultimately, the loss of the scouts in the cleanup areas was the result of posturing and politicalization of the event by the Council. Would the majority of the general populace have appreciated the efforts of the scouts if they had done the service? Probably, if they were even aware of it. But, whether or not it is construed as sour grapes, the scouts should not have been exposed to the chance of negative comments. Should they consider coming forward next year to cleanup? Possibly; but only if it can be kept separate from the controversies of this year.

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    • #17
      My father was an active (underline) member of the Lions Club. Where he went, I went. Deliver dinners to shut-ins, I was in the front seat (no seatbelts). Annual Horse show in Martin's Dairy field, I was there with the other kids, running messages, policing the jumps, directing parking, helping to sell hot dogs. Pancake suppers, I was there, carrying plates, picking up trash, doing what was asked of me. Blood drives, I was there to hand out paper if nothing else. Scoutson watched me work for the Meeting, helped with brush and tree removal, paint the rooms, shovel snow. He watched mom and me work the County Fair, pushing brooms, shoveling rabbit manure, directing traffic, counting tickets, helping the public understand animal behavior. He is a "server" now, doesn't wait for someone to tell him what to do, he will offer more often than not.
      The Scouts will learn by our example more than by our words. If it is the Scoutmaster's example rather than a parent, what is wrong with that? . Let them see and follow and learn thereby.

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      • #18
        I think the answer in the abstract is a fairly obvious N. O.

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        • #19
          Service clubs are experiencing a startling decline in membership. Todays young parents aren't joining, and their children aren't witnessing the example of selfless acts of community service that SSScout recounts.

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          • #20
            I grew up in the "ME" generation of which I really didn't appreciate. I, however, tended to be more on the conservative side of things since I was a kid. I studied history, I listened (sometimes) to my elders and I learned a way of life that is far different than the world I have always lived in. Kinda freaky.

            In spite of the social PC norms, I still hold doors for the ladies. I haven't used the phrase "Ladies First!" since yesterday. Of course, I hold doors for the gentlemen just as often, and I say "Hi" to everyone I meet. It would be interesting to maybe someday record how many times I say please and thank you in a 24 hour period. I know the general manager and the janitor by name as well as 3/4th of the people in the building I work in. I'm busy-body enough to ask people how their vacation went, who their kids are. My company is international and I meet people from all over the world every day as well as work with people from all over the world.

            And yet I have been called chauvinistic, prejudiced, old-fashioned, etc. throughout the years.... and never by any of the people I do nice things for, always a third-party observer. MYOB is another social norm that has been lost on today's society as well.

            Not only is chivalry a lost art, it is frowned upon and derided by our culture. What is left to teach our children in it's place. Gimme, gimme, gimme seems to be the message being sent.

            BSA was founded because of a random act of kindness shown by some Scout from London England who's name was never known. He got his daily good turn in and had he played his cards right could have had the monument in New York with his name on it. Instead he got nothing but the personal satisfaction of doing something nice.

            What are the odds of that ever happening in today's world? Slim to none, but there are a few of us from the old world that still take self-satisfaction in "A Scout is cheerful, courteous, kind, helpful... that 1/3rd of the Laws right there. Teaching Scout Spirit, Servant Leadership, Good Turns, and other principles of the BSA is an up-hill battle pretty much for the past 40 years.

            For those history buffs out there, I'm sure you already know, but for the rest of the modern BSA world, the chapter in the first Boy Scout Handbooks on chivalry are really quite interesting.

            Stosh

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            • #21
              Originally posted by jblake47 View Post
              And yet I have been called chauvinistic, prejudiced, old-fashioned, etc. throughout the years.... and never by any of the people I do nice things for, always a third-party observer. MYOB is another social norm that has been lost on today's society as well.
              Stosh
              Yep, a female (not a lady) I didn't really know took extreme offense that I dared call her, get this . . . . . . . "Mrs. Lastname" How dare I? I explained where I'm from misserus is good manners. Not good enough for her, not my problem.
              Last edited by Scouter99; 07-04-2014, 10:01 AM.

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              • #22
                Obviously correcting other people's manners is part of the culture she grew up in. I was taught differently.

                Stosh

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                • #23
                  A guy by the name of Maimonides wrote a list of charity types in order of importance (circa 12th century) . At the bottom of the list is when one gives unwillingly and at the top is when one spends considerable effort and teaches someone how to fish. This is in the context of give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime, which, by the way, is a quote I've seen attributed to Maimonides. Anyway, below the top level is when both the receiver and giver of charity don't know who they are receiving from or giving to. In such a case the giver receives nothing except for what he finds in his heart and the receiver can't be embarrassed. The levels below that have the giver and receiver knowing different things and whether the giver needs to be asked. It seems the higher you go on the list the harder it is. And that list forms a type of challenge. The mountain is there, so climb it. Maybe that's what we're supposed to do with scouts. Start them off grudgingly and see how far up the ladder we can get them. I've had some, my son included, that have come back years later and tell me they now understand what the service is all about.

                  ​Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't spend more of my time working with kids that really need to learn how to fish, as opposed to the kids in my troop that will mostly figure it out on their own. My weakness is I enjoy the real fishing.

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                  • #24
                    1 hour ago: Neighbor stops by with a box. She said she knew I was a scout leader because she's seen me in my uniform getting in my car to go someplace. Her son used to be a scout and didn't want his "junk" and so she asked if she could give it to me and make sure some scout that couldn't afford a uniform got it.

                    1) It pays to wear the uniform in public.

                    2) People still trust the BSA program (she could have given it to Goodwill or Salvation Army, but she made the trip to my house with that as her sole objective.

                    3) One doesn't have to be a Scout to understand what giving means.

                    4) I don't know this woman nor her name, I had never seen her before.

                    There's a lot of bad one reads about in the newspaper, but dang, this lady really made my day and it's a shirt I'll never wear, but when some scout wears it, I'll know the full story, and so will the scout that gets it.

                    Stosh

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                    • #25
                      So the question was asked in that 'other' forum: " Is expected community service or required community service really in the spirit of doing things for others". At least I assume it was a question...it didn't have a question mark...but anyway it is a good question for this discussion.

                      My answer is that in a scouting spirit kind of way, service is something that we should want to do for the sake of doing the service. If it is expected or required, I see entanglements that make it something less than what we should aspire to. But if someone has other ways to look at this, I'd appreciate reading those.

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                      • #26
                        And the underlying question is How do we motivate someone to do the Right thing? Isn't that question as old as religion? Or at least as old as there have been parents with teenagers? Or maybe the question is How do we teach scout spirit? The problem with setting a minimum is it can become the maximum and that's the problem we have with it. Rather, what if we ask each scout at his SMC what he should do for his next rank? Then make him justify it and hold him to it. Just getting him to think about it would be worth more than making a flat requirement.

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                        • #27
                          "is there truly anything that is purely altruistic?"

                          I would say "no". We have many discussions on boundaries, giving, and receiving in our household as these were not modeled in a healthy way for me or for my husband. We do a lot of reading and discussing in an attempt to teach our children better than we were taught. We are also conservative Christians, so charity is a significant part of our church life.

                          I've taught my children that if you want to have friends, you need to be a friend. We look for ways in which we can proactively be kind among our friends and in our community. It is not altruism in that I do hope that when I need help, my friends will be there for me (and they have been). I think of it as investing in the kind of healthy and mutually beneficial community in which I want to live.

                          It is not quid pro quo in that I have no expectation for direct "payback" from friends I've helped. It is more like karma, where what goes around comes around. If you're known as a helpful person, help tends to be there when you need it.

                          We get closer to altruism when we devote time and money to those outside our community: money sent to missions overseas, food packed for an orphanage in Haiti (a recent church project), etc. Even then, there is a religious motive. We want to witness the love of Christ through helping others. So, even this is not purely altruistic.

                          Due to abuse in my childhood and early adulthood, I try hard to teach my children to be kind without being doormats. I want them to be altruistic, not masochistic. I was taught to be masochistic, giving too much and never receiving help or respect in return.

                          To use an example above, holding the door open for a lady whether or not she says "thank you" is altruistic. Holding the door open again for a woman who has just cussed you out as a patriarchal dirtbag is masochistic. It's about respect, both given and received.

                          I love men with manners. My man has manners. As I tell him, there's a reason I keep running to him whenever I get the chance. I'm not stupid. Treat me like a queen, and it will be good to be the king.... We are raising our dear son (9) to have wonderful manners, too. He already has girls fighting over him in 3rd grade. We expect he will be a sought after boyfriend, and a wonderful husband.

                          In the Vermont water vendor/cleanup crew example, as I understand it, a group of little boys aged 6 to 10 were told that due to offense from grown men in Texas, they were not allowed to sell water as a fundraiser (alongside many other controversial groups, I'm sure), but they were deemed acceptable to pick up trash.

                          In that case, I think the pack leader has it right. To send those little boys out to pick up refuse after they'd been treated in such a way would have been teaching them masochism. It would have been teaching them that they didn't deserve respect. That's a terrible lesson for a child. It's a lesson I was taught by an abusive father, and I would never want my child treated that way.

                          I think there are times when it is appropriate, and wise, to shake the dust from your sandals and move on, as Jesus recommended the disciples do in communities in which their message was treated with scorn.

                          And shame on the town council in VT for taking out their frustrations with the BSA on a group or hardworking responsible little boys. That's as bad as telling a child you won't buy his popcorn because you don't agree with the adults' stance or homosexuality, or telling a little girl you won't buy her cookies because you don't agree with the adults' stance on abortion. Leave the kids out of adult arguments.

                          GeorgiaMom

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                          • #28
                            Been thinking about this some. I think I would have responded by doing the clean up and handing out the water (for free) as others suggested. And then afterwards withdrawing participation from future events.

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                            • #29
                              Given that the boys involved were cubs, I think the pack did the right thing. Small children don't grasp the issues and wouldn't understand why they were good enough to pick up garbage but their water wasn't good enough to sell. I would not have given it away for free because that's rewarding the bad behavior of the organizers and the bullies. I would have either stored the water for the next event or donated it to a worthy cause.

                              I am an adult leader of a crew and, if my unit had been involved in this incident, I would have given the group a chance to vote on what they wanted to do to handle it. They're older and this would have been a good learning experience in many ways - how do you react to hostility from people who don't know you personally, discussing the issues as a group and reaching a consensus, responding to the hostility (or not)...

                              One thing for sure, I would never expose my unit to that particular activity again.

                              As for community service, etc.: when my scouts were younger, they volunteered at blood drives. Now, as each turns 16, it's a right of passage for them to begin donating. Several of my boys even do the big machine, which can take up to an hour. They get fed and once they even got tickets to a sports event. They don't do it for that, they do it because they understand that donating blood is an important thing to do and an easy way to contribute to your community. They go as a group and wear uniforms... Ditto for our food drives, where they only get the fun of trying to win the "strangest food" donated contest. The prize is a picture of the child holding up the item. However, they can also get community service hours towards scouting advancement. Does that lessen the value of their activity? Not in my mind.

                              I think that these cub scouts in Vermont are owed an apology, but I doubt one will be forthcoming.

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