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Do we really make a difference?

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Some of my co-workers and myself were talking the other day, many of them feel that any idea of inmates in a correctional facility is just a myth.

Looking at the number of PV'S (Parole violates) Who end up back, I'm starting to think that any real rehabilitation is indeed rare.

This got me thinking about what we do.

I know that we provide recreation for a very large number of youth.

Still, most of the youth we work with do tend to be "Good Kids" Before they ever join our ranks.

Most come from good families, who are willing to put their hand in their pockets to pay for what we offer.

At times it seems to me that we are all too quick to brand a not so good kid as being "Unscoutlike" and we can't wait to see the back of him.

Or the kid doesn't feel that he wants what we have to offer and quits. This seems especially true for Lads when they reach about 14 -16.

Do you feel that we make a difference?

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YES! While some folks consider scouting a 'white, middle class, urban pasttime" It isn't I was one of those that if it wasn't for scouting, I could of ended up worse off. I've worked with youth in the same boat that I was in, and am workign with some who are in worse predicaments. You got to do your best to get them hooked, keep the promise of excitement and adventure, and work with them.

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As a retired Corrections Officer who has worked in both Maximum and Minimum Facilities, I guess my opinion about "Rehabilitation" may differ from most people. Rehab comes from within and if the will to change isn't there no amount of money or time invested will matter. The only thing you can do is make a program available. You must also keep a somewhat detached distance with the individual. Getting too close can open you up to manipulation and can sometimes cause a pressure in the relationship whereby the person is trying to please you instead of taking responsibility for themselves. Sometimes it is really disappointing to see real potential going down the drain but it is their life, not yours.

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Pardon my posting of an old Scoutmasters minute but I think it applies here;


A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things out into the ocean.


As our friend approached even closer, he noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time, he was throwing them back into the water.


Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said, "Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing."


"I'm throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it's low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don't throw them back into the sea, they'll die up here from lack of oxygen."


"I understand," my friend replied, "but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can't possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don't you realize this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast. Can't you see that you can't possibly make a difference?"


The local native smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, "Made a difference to that one!"



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Yeah, we do make a diference.


But it's not a blanket effect. Every scout leader and every scout are different. There could be an incident that happens at Tiger Scout age that pretty much makes or breaks the entire program.


Could be the way society is changing that makes the young Boy Scout either accept the program and dive in, coast along or just bide soome time till he bails out.


How do adults treat the scouts?

What attitude do mom and da have of scouting? Is it just keeping up with the Jones', is it just a "Gotta do something- why not scouting, or do mom and dad really stand behind the program?


Then it's the individual, and how they were raised.


The "yes sir, no ma'am" type probably stick it out a bit longer and understand the concept of earning what you get,responcible for what you did . Then there are those whos parents ( by example) have taught that "It's not my fault/ responcibility - somebody else should have done ...."


Then, I feel there is a matter of how kids look at others: I grew up respecting adults and authority UNTIL they gave me a reason to not respect them.


Now days, alot of kids are the polar opposite.


Anyways, in my short time in scouting, I have seen shy kids open up and become a part of a crowd. I have seen negative kids become confident and become proficient at a skill. I have watched kids sit around a campfire and tell war stories amongst themselves that had nothing to do with video games.


My own son ( yeah, it does change things) looks forward to outdoor activities.


I agree with allenj.....sometimes, it all depends on the person, and not us.



Incidentally, I got busted for possesion of Marijuanna when I was 18. At that time, I was heading straight down the wrong path. The cop who busted me, held the report, took me to toe police station and scared the living crap out of me.


Years later, we were fishing buddies. He did the same thing for some other young men. One turned out okay also, and another is probably working on his 6th or 7th time behind bars.


Same treatment, different outcomes. The difference: US, not the cop or his actions.

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My Scoutmaster was known to have, at least once, bailed a kid out of jail at 2 AM, scream at them for making a bad decision all the way home, then showed up at every hearing and court date to show that he was 100% behind them, even if not their decisions. That guy went on to straighten out and is doing quite well for himself now. Made a difference?


The same man got me a job that I still hold ten years later, one that helped me pay my way through community college. Made a difference?


There are kids out there in Scouts (I have at least two of them at the moment) who Scout leaders are "Dad" because the real dad doesn't care about his kids. I've had two mothers come right out and say this to me, and there are other kids or parents who might feel the same way, but would never say anything.


Sure, this is all antecdotal, but I'm sure every one of you has stories like this. Its not just recreation, its not just badges or ranks, you (and collectively, we) are making an actual difference just by taking an interest in these kids lives.

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I want to tell you something that has stuck with me since I was around 8 years old. That was 31 years ago, but still fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday.


Bear with me for a few minutes.


Back when I was 8 years old, I'd go to church with my grandma and grandpa on occasion. A few aunts and uncles were there too.


Now, I guess technically, I am a non active Episcipalion...meaning this was an Episcipal Chrcu. A rather dry and stuffy one, but maybe they all were back then.


So one Sunday, they performed communion. Not sure why it wasn't every Sunday, but it wasn't.

So here I am siting beside my grandma and everybody in the pew stands up and walks to the front and kneels to accept bread, wine and prayer.


What does my 8 year oild self do? I go with them. I accept wine, bread, get the "May God be with you" blessing and return to my pew like verybody else.


Later, we all go back to my grandmas house for Sunday dinner. I get the third degree about how I insulted the church, the father and quite possibly God. My grandma and aunt are embarrassed and mortified in what I did.


Mt grandad ...well, he laughed because he thought it was funny and said no harm was done.


The whole conversation lasted less than 3 minutes, and then it was forgotten. Nobody ever made any more of it, nor did they care. It was if it never happened.


Now, I am not traumatized by it, I don't wake up in cold sweats at night, not do I have issues with churches.


I actually think it was a very educational experience that shows there is a unique difference between religion, organized religion and personal belief. And spiritually, I think I am better for it.


BUT...I will always remember that day.


My point is, Some scouts wil always remember something about what happened while scoutimng. Maybe that beltloop, or rank patch when they earned iyt. Maybe a funny skit that they watched or performed. Maybe the first time they ever slept in a tent out in the woods.


Cold be how proud they felt for earning an activity badge or award.


Whatever it is, it made a difference in their life.

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WHat kind of difference do you mean? Are you looking for some one who is the Den Leader of the Niel Armstrong? Or are you looking for something a little more low key?


I can personally say that I believe that I have made a difference in several boys' life. I had one young man who it would take me almost begging to get him to say something in a den meeting. On our first camping trip, I could hear him running around yelling and having a good time. Then there was the young tiger that could not figure out the bow and arrow. he was devastated. I took the time to help him nock the arrow, aim, and release. The first few missed, but I made it fun and eventually they started hitting the target. The smile on his face was almost priceless. The only thing better was the belt loop that he got at the next pack meeting. He had a look on his face that I will never forget.


Then there is the difference that I make with my own son. The time that we spend together and the new things that we do.


So do we as leaders and parents make a difference? YES! It may be small, or it may be large. we may not know it until 10 years from now when we get that invatation in the mail for an Eagle ceremony, to attend or even speak.


BUt let us look at the little differences in each thing that we do. We never know how much helping a boy learn a new skill may pay off.

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I personally don't it matters if it was a "big" difference or a "small" one.


That kid you helped learn to shoot the bow and arrow...He might be the next Olympic Bow Champion.


That kid who barely spoke might become a news anchoror press secratary for the White House one day.


I helped a boy with BB gun. He shot 5 times and didn't even come close to the target. He then told me: "See, I suck at everything!"


I had him wait while I fetched his target. When he wasn't looking, I took a nail out of my pocket and poked a hole about where the 8 or 9 would e on the target. I then showed him. He changed his attitude tright then, gave me a high five and then a hug. Later, he wanted to shoot again, so we did. He hit the target all 5 times..once in the bull's eye.


That kid only needed a dose of confidence.

Did I make a difference? yep! Sure did.


Was it a big difference or small? Who knows, he's still got alot of growing and living to do!

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Most people can't remember the names of their school teachers, even though they spent 7 hours a day for 180 days a year with them.

Most can quickly tell you the names of their Scout leaders, even though they only spent around an hour a week and maybe one weekend a month with them. I think that says something, but I'm not exactly sure what.


Eamonn, we have been watching all the Alcatraz movies since we toured the Rock back in July. The Bird Man tells the warden he doesn't even know what the word rehabilitate means. He says it means to restore their dignity, which he says they are completely failing at. I always get confused about whether we send people to prison for rehablitation, or for punishment. Maybe it is for both, but maybe the two are incompatible.


As for the boys, I remember what Jeff Foxworthy told us at a fundraising breakfast. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother was so poor they had to live with her parents. Being a class clown and comedian, he was always in a little trouble. He had no father figure. He got into Scouts, and the Scoutmaster became the father he didn't have. He says Scouting is the main reason he ended up where he is, and not dead, or on drugs, or out on the street like many of the kids he grew up with. Scouting kept him on the right path.

Through his foundation, he has raised more money than any one else for the Duke Cancer Hospital for kids. If memory serves me correctly, he has raised over $20 million for them. If your kid has cancer, and you don't have a penny in your pocket, they will take him and cover all costs for treatment. I'd say Scouting has made a difference for many people, in this case.


We can't all tell stories as dramatic as Jeff's, but we do make a difference. If I didn't believe that, I would just go play golf.

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I remember the names of every K-12 teacher I ever had and most of the others who were at the schools as well as the administration. I also remember all of my 1st - 3rd grade classmates and most of the rest of the years, not to mention a huge amount of trivia that I enjoy using to torment them in their old age.;) Brent, it's actually kind of a curse...some things need to be forgotten.:) But I get Scoutfish's point. I do remember individual events at school and at scouts that accompanied changes in my life.

There are probably more that I don't remember but it is enough for me to know that similar events probably happen to other persons. Yes we do make a difference. To get that hug from a scout or some kind of acknowledgment from parents for helping him tells me that they noticed something and there's a good chance I did make a difference. However, I have always assumed that if I 'gave back' to the community the way I was given the benefit of similar individuals, that I would have this effect and make a difference. I don't need recognition or even confirmation. Knowing I did the right thing is sufficient.

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I've been involved in Scouts and Scouting for a while.

By now I would have thought all this "Good Stuff" would have taken a hold.

Sadly there are times when it becomes very clear that it hasn't.

Back in 2001 at the Jambo, we camped next to a Troop from Philly.

The Troop was made up of nearly all African-American Scouts. One of the leaders, an African-American female. Who I swear had the shrillest voices I have ever heard took to getting up early, banging a frying pan with a metal spoon and yelling "Rise and Shine, rise and shine."

My feeling toward this woman and what I wanted to do to her were very far from "Scout-Like".

Being the yellow livered coward that I am, I sent one of my ASM's over to have a word with her. (So much for me being Brave!)

OJ. Now 22 has gone all the way through the program, reaching the rank of Eagle Scout. He still is a lazy little toad, not very good in the out-doors and is terrible with his money.

He is I have to admit a very caring fellow, but I think he would have been that way without ever having been a Scout.

For every great story about a Lad that has been "Saved" by some caring volunteer, I'll bet somewhere there is a basketball coach or soccer coach who can say much the same thing.


I know as a youth leader, I was so busy doing stuff and ensuring that the stuff was being done and was fun that I didn't spend that much time on the "Why". Sure we recited the good words, did the odd good turn, even at times said the odd prayer. Still the main focus was on having fun and getting the task at hand done.

Looking back at OJ again!

I do think he got a lot out of serving on staff on JLTC and from serving as SPL.

The OA was the main reason he stuck around, but I'm almost sure that being with his pals in the Lodge came before any idea of Cheerful Service.


I'm left wondering if we the adults just kinda do the stuff and hope that something rubs off ? More than give any real thought to why we do what we are doing?


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Could be you're looking for too much. OJ is not too far from my son in age and mine has turned out really nicely. Also, it could be that it was just HIM and it had nothing to do with scouts....but...there was a point where he needed to make a decision: to quit or to see it through to the end. His decision. He made the decision to stick with it because of the examples he had seen. No one in particular, just that he could more easily decide what the 'right' thing was to do.

At 22, OJ is still developing and maturing. Mine was too and still is years later. I can't say for sure that scouting did anything more than broadening his view of things. If so that's sufficient as a difference as far as I'm concerned.

Other boys gained more or less but if coaches are able to do as much or more, that's good too. But if you're looking for life-changing examples, I suspect those are fewer than the huge number of unspoken incremental changes that I guess you'll have to just take for granted. Maybe I'm just being overly optimistic but I think I see them. Could just be a nice illusion, I suppose.

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Eamonn sez: "I'm left wondering if we the adults just kinda do the stuff and hope that something rubs off ? More than give any real thought to why we do what we are doing?"


Yes, to some extent that is what many of us do. The happy opportunities and outcomes that we all could share were likely not totally intentional. Things happen. Friendships, learning moments, life-change and that stuff, well, they just sort of fall into place. Scouting is just one of many venues in which that can be played out. I do think Scouting gives many obvious situational possibilities where good things can "rub-off."

A young man grew up in our troop. In the early days of his Scout experience, simply put, he and did not get along very well at all. Over time and shared experiences a friendship formed. At a recent farewell party for him as he was about to head to the Army, he communicated to me that "I was the father he never had." I never thought in a million years that he would hold me in that high of esteem. We just did a lot of Scout stuff together and it happened.

I'm one of those types that think that God works in people's lives in His own time and way, and that occasionally, whether I know it or not, I might be a tool He uses to shape someone. Just as He uses others to shape me.

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