Thoughts on Personal Growth and Learning to Serve
Today the BSA turns 106 years old. During its life there has been vitality and vigor alongside illness and moments of life support, but among the most enduring brand images it carries is the daily Good Turn.
Of course, the iconic Scout helping the little old lady across the street comes to mind. Pictured above, B-P sketched this image for Scouting for Boys. While this is actually more of Scout courtesy than a good turn, it still has become a symbol of the BSA and part of our brand.
In our second pillar of communication with LDS Church leaders in Scouting we state that our youth should: “Be prepared through personal growth and learning to serve others through charity and doing a good turn daily.” This pillar points to parts of our Oath, Law and Slogan.
“… to help other people at all times;”
“A Scout is …helpful…” and
“To do a good turn daily.”
“The life of man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service.”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Each of these helps teach a young man learn to serve others through charity and other giving of self, time and means. In short, it builds an important element of character and has done so since Scouting started one-hundred six years ago.
Early in the movement, Baden-Powell, Scouting’s founder, said: “By encouraging, in a healthy, cheery, and not in a sanctimonious and looking-for-reward spirit, your Scouts 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.”
National leaders saw the good turn as their chance to use Scouting in a big way. For example, in 1912 BSA performed its first national civic Good Turn with the promotion of a “Safe and Sane Fourth of July.” Of course, this seems a bit silly to us, but not then and even more important, it set the stage for major national good turns.
First in 1917, Scouting’s full resources were placed at the service of the government with the slogan: ‘‘Help Win the War.” During the next two years, Scouts sold Liberty bonds and war savings stamps totaling more than $355 million. They collected 100 railroad cars full of nutshells and peach pits for gas mask manufacturing and distributed more than 300 million pieces of government literature. Scouts aided in food and fuel conservation projects and planted 12,000 Boy Scout war gardens.
In 1918 BSA adopted the slogan ‘‘The War Is Over, but Our Work Is Not’’ and Scouts rendered nationwide service during the influenza epidemic. Together these major service initiatives cemented our brand in the Nation’s psyche.
“While Scouts should not be expected to ‘parade’ their services, it would be helpful if Scout Leaders, parents, and others would encourage boys in the doing of Good Turns, and recognize the difference between normal household and other chores, and actual Good Turns. Selfishness is almost a universal evil. Certainly it is overcome by the Scout Program, which is based upon the development of service for others, and the Daily Good Turn is an important factor in the development of a habit of service and attitude of mind which offset a tendency to selfishness.”
Each President saw ways and called on Scouts to help. In 1934, Roosevelt called for help from the Scouts for the distressed and needy, with a Nationwide Good Turn that collected 1,812,284 items of clothing, household furnishings, foodstuffs, and supplies.
The Scouts’ War effort during 1941–1945 included 69 specific requests from the government yielding:
- Collected 30 million pounds of rubber during a two-week drive
- 20,000 Scouts earned the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Medal for Victory Gardens
- Distributed pledge cards for war bonds and savings stamps
- Distributed stamp posters
- Collected aluminum, wastepaper, and salvage
- Conducted defense housing surveys
- Distributed air-raid posters
- Served as messengers and dispatch bearers
- Assisted emergency medical units
- Served as fire watchers
In the 1950s the National Good Turn continued in 1952 with 2 million pounds of clothing collected for domestic and foreign relief. That year Scouts distributed more than a million posters and 30 million Liberty Bell doorknob hangers in the Get-Out-the-Vote campaign.
During my youth in the 1960’s, the Conservation Good Turn evolved into Save Our American Resources—SOAR. I grew up in a time when conservation was a given with BSA programs. For me it was part of life and nearly every other Scout too.
In the 1960s and 70s I must have given hundreds of cards like this with the Outdoor Code to Scouts at camp, getting nearly every troop to do a 2-hr service project for the environment. This same practice is a common Good in Turn in nearly all our camps.
In 1971 on June 5th, Scouts collected more than a million tons of litter on Scouting Keep America Beautiful Day. And on it went through the decade.
Then in 1988, BSA ran its first Scouting for Food National Good Turn in which more than 60 million food items were collected. This single service project has epitomized Scouting’s Good Turn as it continues today nationwide. At the turn of the new century, Scouting for Food was combined with Scouting for Shelter and Scouting for Health as Good Turns for America, offering the nation millions of hours of service and saving governments and agencies billions of dollars.
For example, in a single service project called ArrowCorps5 in 2008, 3,600 Scouts and adult volunteers made $5.6 million worth of improvements made to national parks and public lands in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. Agencies and others have come to expect the 200,000 plus hours from Star, Life and Eagle service projects in just our Council.
Learning and doing these things helps a young man learn to serve others through charity and other giving of self, time and means. In short it builds an important element of character and has since Scouting started one-hundred six years ago.
So what Good Turn will you do for Anniversary Week?