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Can we know too much?

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I like kids.

I really do enjoy the time we get to spend together.

Sure I know about all the good stuff Scouts and Scouting can do and does do.

But 99.9% of the time, I'm busy having fun with the Scouts that all of that good and important stuff gets put on the back burner.

I try really hard to get to know the Scouts.

Even when I was one of them there District types, I liked to think I knew just about every Scouts name and a little something about him.

Nothing big, maybe the sport he was involved in or where his parents worked, or if he had an older brother? I used this as an ice breaker.

I know a lot more about the Scouts in the Ship.

To me this game (Scouting) is about relationships.

I think I do a better job as a leader because I really know the Scouts I serve.

I know that one Scout took her driving test last Saturday and past. I know that another retook his SAT's for the third time. I know that a couple of them will stay in bed till noon on a Saturday. All of them know me! They know Rory and Joe. They know the "Little things" that set me off. They have at times heard me sound off about things I don't like or maybe don't understand. (Rap)

There are times when I know or hear things that I really don't need or want to know.

Last week a super intelligent bright girl informed me that she wasn't going to study for one of her finals.

At the time I didn't see this as anything to do with Scouts. I did put on my "Parental Cap" and in a really nice way told her that I was disappointed to hear that she wasn't giving it her best shot. (I did feel a little guilty as she is taking the finals early to go away to work at a Scout Camp).

We seem to spend a lot of time traveling (11 hours this past weekend) The Scouts at times seem to forget that I'm in the van. A lot of what I heard this weekend was about Heavy Metal music,one Lad playing baseball and thinking of giving up wrestling if his Dad will let him!! A fair amount about a Scout who didn't go and his new girl friend.

There are times when I see or hear something which I view as being not good or harmful.

In the past few months I heard that one of the Scouts had gone to a party and passed out drunk. When I asked him about it, he said that it had happened. He is only 15. I gave him my best sermon on how dangerous drinking can be, made him aware that if nothing else getting caught drinking underage would put his driving license on hold and I told him I was going to talk to his parents. Which I did. He knows that I didn't "Snitch" or do anything to be mean to him, I did what I did because I really do care for him.

Another Scout got a new laptop for Christmas. It was running really slow (He had downloaded a lot of junk and spy-ware) He asked to take a look. By accident I came across some really nasty hardcore porn. I let him know that I'd found it. I asked him what he thought his Mother would say if she had found it? He agreed that she would go nuts. He deleted it. Knowing that his Mother would go nuts! I had a very quiet word with his Dad. I said that I didn't want to make a big deal about it, but I thought he might want to keep an eye on what his son was up to on line.

I don't think I would ever use any of the things I might know or hear to prevent a Scout from advancing.

Somehow I don't connect it all?

Of course if the Scout had got drunk at a Scouting event or the Lad had been showing he porn to other Scouts, it would be different.

I'm not 100% sure if what I'm doing is in keeping with the BSA and what it might have to say? Not that it really matters! Because I'm not going to change.

Maybe I'm a little old to be a "Big Brother"?

I'm not too old to care and do what I think is best.


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Eamonn the kids obviously respect you and trust you. If you didn't use your judgment when you overheard things or know things and put a quiet word in to the appropriate party, who would?? Word has bound to have gotten out about what you have done and yet the kids still talk in front of you so they must not mind. Your intervention may save a kid from a major disaster later. We as scout leaders probably get more time, where we can watch and listen, around a boy and his peers than anybody else. We probably can know too much, but that is the price we pay for doing what we do and trying to be a positive influence on a young persons life.

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I think that the way you handled these issues is just right. The most important thing here is that you have a very real bond and relationship with the youth that you serve. I think that every one of us can relate how you really can love these kids - because we all do. By talking to the kid who got drunk, letting him know you care and telling him what you were going to do about it shows to them that there is someone that really does care about them. So many kids have problems in their lives that just get blown up out of proportion in their own little worlds, that it can cause them to do harm to themselves. It is so easy for them to think that they have nowhere to turn. Getting to know your Scouts and making sure they know that you care about them might put a little voice in the back of their minds that maybe they will hear next time they are faced with this or other decisions.


A month ago, a boy in our Troop committed suicide. The young man was cutting himself (using a razor-blade to draw blood on his wrist and leave a scar)and was involved in company at his school that promoted thoughts of suicide and self-mutilation. I knew about the cutting , but also knew that he was in counseling for it. I sort of tried in my own way to make him feel like he was important by encouraging him to take a leadership role in things, but never really sat down with him and asked him about him and got to know him. I had no idea that he was suicidal, but I did know that he was having struggles in his life. I kept putting off opportunities to talk to him and see how he is doing because there was always tomorrow. "How can I talk privately with this young man without violating youth protection practices" is what I kept asking myself. I thought that that opportunity to talk to him privately, but in plain sight of everyone else would present itself at the next meeting, or campout, or whatever. Again, there's always tomorrow. Right?


As it turns out (if found out after he was gone), he got involved in a crowd at school and fell in love with a girl that was doing these awful things to her body. He followed suit because he thought that's what he needed to do to win her affection. He tried to convince her to stop because he didn't like doing those things, but she refused and they broke up. In his 15-year-old mind, the end of the world came through. In a desperate cry for attention (or so I am choosing to believe) he hung himself on stormy Thursday after school as he felt he had nowhere else to turn.


Why am I saying this? This young man had been crying out to his "Friends" at school that were into this type of culture, but none of them had the frame of mind to say something. He was reaching out. If, simply by asking about his schoolwork, or finding more out about his brother, I could have created a bond with him where he might have felt comfortable reaching out and asking for help. I'm not a psychiatrist or anything like that, but I can put my arm around a youth and make them feel that they are loved and needed. Would that have saved this boy? I don't know. But given 10 of these identical situations, I'll bet it would have saved at least one of them.


This is the hardest thing that I've ever had to come to terms with. I don't blame myself, but do constantly think "what if ..." as do many Scouters and other adults in his life wonder.


Eamonn, and any others who genuinely care for the kids they serve .... there is nothing more important that a good, trusting relationship with today's youth. You can't know too much. Often times, we spend more quality time with these kids than their parents do. I think sometimes that we let youth protection, BSA policies and other things keep us from feeling comfortable reaching out to our youth. It reminds me of a poem that I think we can all relate to .....


"A hundred years from now, it won't matter how much money I had in a bank account, how big of a house I lived in or what kind of car I drove. What will matter is that I have made a difference in the life of a child"


That's what we are here for.



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The quote comes from an essay written by Dr. Forest E. Witcraft (1894-1967), a scholar, teacher, and Boy Scout administrator. It was first published in the October 1950 issue of Scouting magazine (Scouting, October 1950, p. 2).


Within My Power


I am not a Very Important Man, as importance is commonly rated. I do not have great wealth, control a big business, or occupy a position of great honor or authority.


Yet I may someday mold destiny. For it is within my power to become the most important man in the world in the life of a boy. And every boy is a potential atom bomb in human history.


A humble citizen like myself might have been the Scoutmaster of a Troop in which an undersized unhappy Austrian lad by the name of Adolph might have found a joyous boyhood, full of the ideals of brotherhood, goodwill, and kindness. And the world would have been different.


A humble citizen like myself might have been the organizer of a Scout Troop in which a Russian boy called Joe might have learned the lessons of democratic cooperation.


These men would never have known that they had averted world tragedy, yet actually they would have been among the most important men who ever lived.


All about me are boys. They are the makers of history, the builders of tomorrow. If I can have some part in guiding them up the trails of Scouting, on to the high road of noble character and constructive citizenship, I may prove to be the most important man in their lives, the most important man in my community.


A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a boy.


- Forest E. Witcraft

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Just because you put a uniform on doesn't mean you cease to be a caring human being. You put the uniform on because you ARE a caring human being.





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Simple, no.

It is important for the adults to be involved in the boy's lives. If we aren't then how is it possible that we are influencing their characters?


If we come across damaging activities/events in their lives isn't it our place to issue the level of course correction appropriate to our station?


The issue of course is to remember that we are NOT their parents. And I really think Eamonn handled his situations well.

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