Twenty years ago this year, I earned my Eagle Scout. A loyal Scout from an early age, earning the Eagle Scout Award was the pinnacle of my twelve-year Scouting career. I had been luckier than most: a strong Troop with both adult and youth leaders that valued outdoor programs, parents that supported and participated alongside me, and the means to indulge in adventure.
Through the years, Scouting took me to different parks, states, and countries, allowing me to log over 500 nights in a tent — that’s better than frequent flier miles. Scouting caused me to meet people from every walk of life, and to embrace, appreciate, and celebrate our differences as humans. Scouting gave me a true reverence for nature and the outdoors. Heading out into the wilderness, carrying all of your supplies on your back gives new meaning to sustainable living. Because of Scouting, I am committed to the ideology of a greener planet, protecting the environment, and leaving every place better than I found it.
Over time, I gave more and more of myself to the program. Following the lead of those who helped me, I helped those who came after me. Eventually, I instructed more than 150 individual merit badge classes, helping nearly 2,000 Scouts to learn core Scouting Skills like swimming, pioneering, and orienteering. I served seven years on Summer Camp Staff, two as a Camp Director. Even today, I can tie all of the BSA’s Forty Knots behind my back or blindfolded. And of course, I had fun along the way.
Recently, a friend asked about my current involvement. I was embarrassed to admit that I had been inactive the past few years, allowing both my Resident Camp Director certification and BSA membership to lapse. My own words stopped me in my tracks and caused a moment of reflection. Eventually, I took solace knowing that while I had left Scouting as of late, Scouting will never leave me.
Of all the lessons learned, one has continued to resonate with me every single day. Twelve simple adjectives that make up the Scout Law have become my life’s mantra. Twelve qualities that I admire and encourage in others. Twelve character traits to influence my behavior and attitude. Prominently featured in our trusty Boy Scout Handbook. “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”
Always tell the truth. Keep your promises. Remain honest and ethical in the face of corruption. Be dependable.
Stay true to family and friends. Proudly pledge alliance to community and nation. Give firm and constant support.
Be concerned about other people. Willingly give assistance without pay or reward. Make your actions useful and supporting.
Seek to understand others. Respect ideas, customs, and beliefs other than your own. Stay good natured, hospitable, and affable.
Manners make the Man. Be polite to everyone, regardless of age, rank, or social status. Be appreciative of others.
Exhibit strength through gentleness. Be affectionate and show compassion. Treat others as you want to be treated.
Remain law abiding, dutiful, and disciplined. Obey the laws of community and country. If you disagree, put forth effort to reform rather than disobey.
Look for the bright side of things. Stay happy and optimistic when faced with adversity. Try to make others happy.
Use time, money, and property carefully. Pay your own way. Be prudent and avoid wastefulness. Conserve natural resources.
Show courage by doing things that scare you. Always stand up for what you think is right. Be ready to face danger. Protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Keep mind and body fit and healthy. Stay morally uncontaminated. Keep home, community, and environment free from pollutants.
Show deep and solemn respect for the things that matter. Respect the beliefs of others. Permit yourself to be grateful.