Each time a ranger exits the office, they reach up to touch the sign with the motto, and are reminded that their responsibility to the Ranch’s visitors extends far beyond that of a client and guide. When they leave their friends and fellow rangers to rendezvous with their next crew, they are frequently dismissed with shouts of “go change lives!” and, of course, the ever important reminder to, also, “change your socks!”
That inspiring message has spread to all the staff, from those you meet behind the counter in the dining hall to those who you encounter on the porch of a back country cabin or leading your troop up a rock face. Our mission every day, from sunup to sundown, is to change lives. And not only the lives of the visitors, but those of our fellow staffers as well.
Now, I take that life-changing experience I had as a participant in a Philmont trek as a 19-year-old college student—the moment I went from fearing the outdoors to craving the wilderness—and I find a way to “change lives” every day. I may do so by sharing my favorite hymn on a pump organ with a crew visiting my 1912 cabin. Or perhaps by my spotting and chatting with a young man who looks a little ill and intimidated by the summit climb ahead of him, then send him on his way with new confidence after something as simple as a glass of juice and a pep talk. It might be that I give a timid young man the confidence to confront his fear of heights and scale a rock wall, leaving him with the assurance that he can successfully conquer other, greater fears. Or I may work with the youth leader of a crew to create plans to better include a slightly ostracized crew member who is struggling. It may be something bigger, as I sit and talk with one of my staff members who is struggling with concerns about returning home at the end of the summer, or with a friend who has been facing issues of mental illness and family distress.
Philmont—which was previously named “Philturn” Scout Ranch for the good turn Waite Phillips did in donating the land to the BSA—taught me that as a result of my diligent preparation, and even as I gained more of that experience, I could and even needed to focus on doing my good turn daily, and in so doing, change lives.
Not all of us are lucky enough to work at Philmont and get to change lives in such a way. But fortunately, we can all be lucky enough to be members of the BSA. It’s worth noting, that my ability to aid in the challenges I saw saw around me, large or small, were a direct result of experiences with Scouting and the Church.
How does Scouting offer this personal growth to young men? At its simplest, it offers a place for young people to learn a variety of new skills, with incentive to do so and peers who are doing the same. They are directed to grow and then serve in Scouting and in their Aaronic Priesthood duties. Personal growth and service are essential to the purpose of the gospel and of the LDS Church. No hymn is sung with more fervor than “Called to Serve.” Yet as we sing that hymn with our eyes on missionary service, let us adjust that view to look toward this day and the next, and help our young men to see that now is the time to both grow and serve. And how will we adjust that view? With the Scouting program!
Author: Lee Ferrin | BYU Student, BSA Volunteer, Seasonal Camp Director at Philmont Scout Ranch