People often look at “kids today” and worry about what the world is coming to.
You probably don’t know it, but the image above is an illustration of a statue in Gilwell park, England that depicts “the ideal Boy Scout.” It was the basis for the apperance of young Indian Jones.
This last week I had the opportunity to spend the week watching 120 boys become young men. Every summer I volunteer at a scout camp. This isn’t regular summer camp – it’s more like Boy Scout boot camp. The training programme is called National Youth Leadership Training or NYLT. I originally went through the programme in 1999 when it was called Junior Leader Training. I’ve been on staff ever since; this last week marked my 10th year.
In 2005 the transition was made from JLT to NYLT curriculum. A lot of the camp traditions I’d come to love we’re yanked. One of them was a large pioneering project. The old course had scouts build a bridge across a cove as a sort of “final” for the week. It was epic. It made them proud, and it was a big accomplishment. After the first year of NYLT, we adjusted the schedule to accommodate a new pioneering project. It’s taken a long time, but the programe has finally gotten close to its former glory. This year was the first time since 2004 that the kids have completed the pioneering project without staff intervention – i.e. the first time since NYLT was implemented that they have been able to do what every JLT course has for the last 20 years.
I was so moved when they completed the project that I actually wept a little. These boys had gone from a group of complete strangers to a cohesive, productive group in just a few short days. They were able to organise themselves and build this fairly impressive structure. Who knows what they will be able to do with the future. Who knows what they will be able to accomplish.
That night at troop assembly, I looked over them – rag tag group of smelly 13-14 year old boys. Normally I might stop my assessment at that – but in that moment I saw something else. I saw possibilities in every single one of them. Endless possibilities they could achieve if they put their minds to it.
I was humbled to be a part of an early experience in their life that hopefully taught them something about who and what they are, and who and what they can be. They’ve been home from camp for maybe two days now, and probably have already forgotten my name – but I can still hold my head high knowing that I helped leave an impression on them for life. That I’ve made the world just a little bit better by prodding an adolescent knuckle-head boy in the right direction. I feel so humble to have been a part of something so potentially life changing and great.