Ever pause and think well upon the Scout Slogan to—Do a Good Turn Daily? For this blog I wanted to pass along some thoughts to ponder on this major principle of Scouting. I like to tie doing a good turn to doing our duty to God, as service to one another is a basic tenet of our faith. Doing a good turn is in fact represented in the points of the Scout Law in being helpful, courteous and kind, especially when done with a cheerful spirit as exemplified by the Order of the Arrow’s teaching of cheerful service. The good turn, or service to one’s family/neighbor, has been taught by the Savior as well as prophets, new and old, and exemplified by Mosiah (Mosiah 2:17)
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.
Latter-day Saints can significantly contribute to packs, troops, crews, and ships they participate in by being champions of the good turn. I clearly recall my Scout Troop that I was in growing up. They put forth a recognizable effort to instill in us the principle of doing a good turn daily. Both older Scouts and adults would come up to us younger Scouts and ask us what was our good turn that we did today? Often, I’d freeze up, hem and haw a bit, as I would try and quickly think of something to say. I knew I had done something . . . just what was it? The leaders were skilled enough in Scouting’s process and, after waiting only so long for an answer, rescued me from my stupor of thought with, “Well, don’t forget. Do a good turn daily.”
I often recalled those moments. They never really left me. What I see now as an adult is that what we measure with our youth has a powerful impression on them. As an eleven-year-old Scout leader, I made reporting on a good turn a weekly part of our meetings. After the formal opening with a flag ceremony, Scout Oath, Scout Law, motto, slogan, and outdoor code, I would go around the room and have each Scout talk about a good turn they did or observed. Because we talked about it weekly and because it was important to me, the Scouts steadily had more and better things to report. It became something that gained meaning for them. More than any one thing, good turns have won affection and approval for Scouting. Doing service is not a new thing, but before Scouting’s good turn, it was never applied more completely or trustfully to a younger generation.
The Chief Scout, Lord Baden-Powell (BP), was a genius and truly understood human character. He wisely characterized service in a way that made it compelling by removing any drudgery from the labor. Doing a good turn reflects that “goodness” onto the doer. All youth want to know that they are good. When Scouts do a good turn, they can take pride in knowing that they are responsible for adding goodness to this life. Just putting the term “good” in the expression changes how one feels about what they are doing. The good turn makes a Scout feel useful in his home, in his unit, and in his community. Units would do well to speak to Scouts about doing good turns more often versus referring to them as service projects.
A good turn is more than an expression of good will. Good turns should turn into an expression of deep-felt charity for others and an attitude of mind to make a difference in the lives of others. Deeply embedded in every aspect of Scoutcraft is a spiritual nature. Doing a good turn is no different. We want Scouts to learn to put God first, others second, and themselves last. Thus, everything a Scout does for goodness becomes an expression of that attitude of mind. When we take this view, the path of the good turn takes the Scout on an inner, spiritual growth because it is an expression of his spiritual side.
As Latter-day Saint Scouters, let’s take a fresh look and work within our units, districts, councils, and nationally to revise and redirect our allocation of time with our Scouts to include more time and emphasis on doing good turns. Let’s revise in ourselves, Scouts, and fellow Scouters the need to be a powerful force for good and charity to our families, our communities, and our nation. Let me close with these words from BP (Aids to Scoutmastership, 1920, p. 20):
By encouraging your Scouts in a healthy, cheery, and not in a sanctimonious looking-for-a-reward spirit to do Good Turns as a first step and to do service for the community as a development, you can do more for them even than by encouraging their proficiency or their discipline or their knowledge, because you are teaching them not how to get a living so much as how to live.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, national and international levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, and is currently a skipper’s mate for Ship 818. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.