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Zebras and Ducks

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Please don't for a minute think I'm trying to pick on anyone or in any way put anyone down.


Scouts and Scouting for me has always been something that for the most part is all about fun.

Even when driving several hundred miles to attend an Area Meeting which I know before I get there will be about as interesting as watching paint dry. I keep reminding myself that it's all about making something better for the Scouts we all hope to serve.

I really do try to do my best to ensure that no Scout is harmed. Sure there are times when having the entire Quarterdeck walk the plank seems like a wonderful idea. But I keep that thought to myself.

For the most part, I know what the "Book" says and I know when I'm not following it.

When I choose not to follow it, I have in my own mind found a good reason to not follow it.

For example a very long time back when I was a CM. We had a lock in for the Pack in the church hall. Games, movies and pizza. In the middle of the night a young Lad who had eaten too much pizza woke me up and informed me that he was going to be sick. He was upset and crying.

He was in his PJ's and I was in my underwear. I rushed him to the boys bathroom and stood with him while the pizza came up.

Then out of no where all the YP stuff hit me like a brick!

Here I am in my underwear, alone with a young Lad in his PJ's in a boys bathroom.

I did leave him for a minute and got his Den Leader.

We managed to settle him down, clean him up and we all went back to sleep.

When his parents came I explained everything that had happened, including the part where I was alone with him.

His parents were happy that I had been there for their son and that he hadn't got too upset.

I explained that I had broken every rule in the book! They just didn't see it and thought I was nuts for bringing it up.

During the time I have been working with Scouts, I have seen a little Lad left at camp and felt that there was no choice but to give him a ride home even though I was the only person in my car. I knew what rules I was breaking.

I have with another adult in the tent been asked by Scouts to "Take a look" at insect bites on the behind, swollen testicles, cuts to the upper thigh. I have not always been comfortable with these requests, but have put my care and my concern for the Lad before my own comfort.

Even today, the boats the ship owns are kept in a large shed on my property. The Scouts know that they can work on them when they can make the time. The shed isn't locked. Very often when I'm walking the dogs, I'll stop by to find a couple of Scouts working on a boat. I do stop and say Hi and do my best to get away before they find something for me to do!


I'm not in any way saying that following the YP Guidelines are a bad thing.

But not everything is always a YP issue.

I have worked with Scouts (Male and female.) in the water showing different life-saving


I have given a Lad a push on his backside when we have been rock climbing.

Take my word for it there is nothing about a Scouts backside that could ever in a million years even in the slightest be seen by me as a "Turn on".

I'm very comfortable in my own mind and with my own sexuality. I can and do say that someone is handsome or good looking. Not because I'm in anyway interested in them "That Way!"But because they are.

I know and have known all the Scouts I have worked with over the years. At times we have teased each other. There is no harm or any malice. There is some risk, but in many ways this friendly teasing acts to bring us closer together.

I have seen and worked with some leaders who give me the creeps. The type of guys who make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Most times when it walks like a duck, acts like a duck and quacks, chances are that it is a duck, and needs to be treated like a duck.

But not everything is always what it seems.

Right now at work I'm working with a big African-American guy, who could have played the part in the Green Mile. I call him "Whitey". Not because he is black, but because his last name is White. I at times tease him, telling him that he is the nicest white black guy I know.

At camp and on trips almost every group I have been involved with has been known for what can only be call group sillieness.

At the last Jamboree each morning the Troop managed to get a Jamboree Staff member to join us for our Flag Ceremony and had them join us in the Polynesian Duck Dance.

We have at times found something that someone has said and this has become the catch phase for the camp. Or a song that by the end of the week will drive everyone nuts, because we have sung it repeatedly. One camp th Scouts got the idea that they weren't going to call me Eamonn and replaced it with every name they could think of that started with the letters E OR A.

I have given Scouts nick-names, which have stuck. Nothing unkind or in any way hurtful. Mostly done in friendly fun.

In some ways things like this do help bring the entire group closer together.

Sometimes a horse is a horse, it is just stuff that is done in fun, no one is harmed, no one is hurt. I'm sure if we try hard enough we can make this horse into a zebra.

But when we do we run the risk of taking a lot of what I see as the fun in Scouting out of it.

I'm very grateful for the trust that parents and organizations have placed in me. I do take the responsibilities placed on me to heart.

In many ways I take better care of other peoples kids, more so than I do my own.

I'm always very thankful that the Scouts are willing to spend their time with me.

I will always do what I think is best for them. If this means having at times to put the rule book on the back burner? I'm OK with that.

If this means that I'm not going ever to allow what I see as someones not so great interpretation of what the rule or policy is? I'm more than fine with it.


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I get you!


The way I see it, even the best, well intentioned good rules CANNOT foresee every single circumstance ahead of time.


Rules , no matter how well intentioned are for the most part, a blanket thing. 99 % of the time, a rule may be for a good reason. But 10% of the time, that rule may indeed create more "harm" (for lack of a better word) than good.


Take the youngin puking up pizza for example: Yeah, technically, you might have been violating YP, but in the bigger picture, you chose a more imdediate and higher need of mentoring.


I can only imagine how that scout would have felt all alone, in a "not at home" environment feeling physically and mentaly horrible. I bet that would have a made a lasting impression on all of his scouting days and activities.


So yeah, I get you. As leaders, we really, really ought to follow the YPG to the letter...but sometimes, following the letter may actually be falling off the path that scouting is supposed to take.


I just hope we can all be wise enough to make the right decision when the time comes!

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There ya go Eamonn mucking up the whole works by applying common sense!


Thanks for your insight.

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Yes!! Common sense still does survive. Great comments Eamonn.


Like the part about taking the fun out. Had Camporee this past weekend, and minor issue in that realm. Have two brand new cross over boys on the outing. Saturday, one of the event staff is walking through; her job is safety among others. These two have crawled up a large oak branch to a fork and are just having a good time; maybe 8 feet from the ground at best on a branch that is over a foot thick. She tells me that they cannot climb the tree; and of course I pretty much tell her they are boys, and that is what they do. Later we cleared the air of any misunderstanding, but we cannot take away every possible danger. Sure, they could have fallen; but it was unlikely. Plus it happened that both of their dads were there. She was simply "following the rules" established with the ever present fear of litigation.


"Common Sense", and "preserving a modicum of natural instinctive fun".

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Been there, done that.....


There's probably 25-30 people out there that would have just cause using the YP rules to have me kicked out of scouting.


Yet there are 20 times that many that think I ought to stay and keep doing what I'm doing.


It's just a matter of playing the odds and hoping one's number never turns up.


While I never advocate breaking any rules, there are times when common sense plays itself out and everything is okay.


Okay, try this one on...


Your troop meets in the banquet hall of the American Legion. The bar is off in another room.


At the end of the meeting you realize one boy is left by himself. The parent hasn't showed up yet.


1) do you go home and figure the parent is going to be coming?


2) do you stay with the boy until the parent comes knowing you are one-on one?


3) do you go to an area of the building where there are other adults to protect you, i.e. the bar area?


Yeah, yeah, one shouldn't let the situation end up with one-on-one, but I was packing my car and wasn't paying attention.


These kinds of things come up all the time. Everyone is a judgment call and everyone has the potential for disaster.


I chose #2 and kept my eye on the boy and his safety until his parent showed up. Duh! We talked in the parking lot. I sat on the trunk of my car and he wandered around pacing while waiting. When the parent arrived, they profusely apologized for being late and thanked me for sticking around and waiting with their boy. According to YP, the scenerio could have turned out differently, but it's a chance I took on behalf of the scout.




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Great post.


I've even had parents call me and ask me to pick Johnny up on my way to the meeting place since they know I got right by their house. I knew the parents and the boy so didn't think a thing about it.


The bottom line is we have to do what is best for all involved.

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When I was a SM, there were occasions when a Scout wasn't picked up after a meeting & a call had to be made to mom & dad to come get him. I would stay with the Scout until they showed up. Never had a problem or question.

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I just renewed my YPT by watching the on-line video. The video was a little corny, of course, but it did try to cover a lot of "what if" scenarios, incidences such as being one-on-one with a Scout because everyone else left before Johnny's mom got there. They make a point to say that safety has to come above all else. Incidences like attending a sick child in the bathroom, checking on bug bites in unfortunate locations, that sort of thing, seem to me to fall under "safety" considerations.


Great comments, Eamonn -




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Amen brother Eamonn-


I've always tried to opperate under the premise "If you act in the best interest of the youth, you will not likely be called to explin your actions".


That premise over-rides any policy someone could think to type up.


The lone kid after a meeting, the scout getting sick in the middle of the night, the bug-bitten-butt... all great examples. You act in the best interest of the scout and you will do just fine.


As for the nicknames, jokes, etc... its a fine line between a little poking fun and outright hazing. In my day, hazing was generally tolerated if not encouraged. I don't see the big deal with it so long as its not dangerous or overly hurtful in nature. All forms of serious male bonding have at least some ritual haxing involved. BSA, fraternities, military units, workplaces w/ the new guy - if done in good fun it grows unit cohesion. If done with malice, it cuts groups apart. Again, someone with a sliver of common sense can usually tell the dividing line. Stay on the right side of it and it should not be a problem.


Good post Eamonn.

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Eamonn - I agree with the overall sentiment of your post.


But I do have one small problem. Perhaps on your next lock-in, you can get yourself a pair of shorts or pajama pants to sleep in. Just sayin...no one should be subject to seeing their CM in his undies. ;-)

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I still haven't figured out what the appropriate G2SS and common sense response would have been some 20 years ago when we had young Scout who had found a tick firmly attached to his scrotum. Fortunately for us, his father was an ASM and was present. He attended to the problem. There was no screaming and the Scout is now the father of a young boy himself, so apparently all was well. :)

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