Scouts and Scouters,
As we mark the close of 2020, we look back and reminisce on a unique year! For many of us, the past months have been full of changes and disappointments. For example, most traditional Scouting events–from day camps to Philmont to the 2021 National Jamboree–were cancelled due to Coronavirus. Many BSA units have struggled to maintain membership, and worldwide restrictions have caused our regular Scouting adventures to be sorely crippled.
However, there are also aspects of this difficult time that we can celebrate. The worldwide pandemic was an opportunity to use technology to communicate in epic ways; the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts is growing; and packs, troops and crews have continued to meet on a smaller scale with safe, socially distant methods.
I am reminded of the Scout adage, “It only rains ‘on’ a Scout, not ‘in’ a Scout.”
Last month 15 Scouts (including four of my own children) from several troops and a crew in the Far East Council hiked over 50 miles along the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Many of those miles were in the pouring rain (and rain on the island means RAIN!) However, as the youth and leaders set out on this epic adventure, it was encouraging to note that the Scouts had smiles on their faces. When they returned from their first day, drenched and tired, they were happy and full of energy. Their determined examples portrayed the Spirit of Scouting. They refused to let the storms of life get into their souls, and instead proved what they professed: “A Scout is Cheerful.”
Despite the “rain” of our times, we can continue to be cheerful and keep the storms outside of our Scout souls. We can create sunshine inside of ourselves. After all, isn’t that what we pledge to do when we raise our arm and recite the Scout Law? Instead of wishing things were normal, we can be grateful for this opportunity to finally “prove ourselves” and exercise all of the values we have espoused for so long.
If never a sorrow came to us,
and never a care we knew;
If every hope were realized,
and every dream came true;
If only joy were found on earth,
and no one ever sighed,
And never a friend proved false to us,
and never a loved one died,
And never a burden bore us down,
soul-sick and weary, too,
We’d yearn for tests to prove our worth
and tasks for us to do.
As you set out on your personal 50 mile hikes this year (in sunshine or in rain) I encourage you to let the storms fall around you and keep the Scout Law as a personal beacon. I look forward with optimism to 2021 and the continued opportunity to strengthen youth through citizenship, fitness, and character.
Mark R. Francis
Vanguard Scouting Board