This morning I read the sad story of three Boy Scouts and their adult leader who died in a car crash while on their way home to Woodland Park, CO. over the weekend. The struck home immediately because as a leader of young men in my community I have often thought about the impact, positive or negative that I might have on the group of boys whom I serve and their families. It also struck a chord with me because in the course of our various activities, one of my primary responsibilities is to transport the young men. How it is to be met with tragedy when we as leaders make a slight miscalculation or a lapse in judgement.
The accident is still under investigation (note: I’m not implying in any way, shape or form that the adult Scout Leader was in any way at fault), but this happens to be one of my biggest fears as a leader and a mentor to these young men – what would happen if, during the course of a scheduled activity, something went horribly wrong and one of the boys or another leader is met with disaster? Safety is something that we should all take very seriously, especially when dealing with the lives of young people. Because the potential for danger is always at the forefront of my mind when working with the young men in our Scouting program, I am ultra conservative when it comes to the activities that we participate in.
Am I too paranoid? Have I watched and read too many stories of Scouts and their leaders getting lost, injured or victims of drowning year after mournful year? Or am I just extremely cautious because I don’t want to live with the thought of someone else’s child being hurt while they were in my care? In my mind the answer is: You must be paranoid and you have to be vigilant when the trust of a child and that childs’ parents have been placed in your hands.
Unfortunately, I make mistakes. Thankfully my mistakes have been relatively minor and I want to keep it that way. When planning for activities, I want to minimize as many risks as possible up front, but there is no telling what will happen when you get a van full of boys out in nature or on a field trip to place that you are visiting for the first time whether it is a museum, a zoo or a shooting range. Kids, especially boisterous, unruly boys who love to have fun, don’t like to hear adults say, ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t do that’ especially when there is an irresistible urge to outdo one another on the fun-factor scale. But I view my role as part-Mentor, part-Safety Manager and part-Teacher. I seldom enjoy my role as “Party Pooper” but I can hardly be careless and dangerous when my responsibilities include bringing everyone safely home.
And what can we say about the moral safety of these young mind and souls? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I am not one to let my own thoughts and feelings about subjects that I am passionate about go unfettered. On the other hand, I have to be careful about the things that I say and the actions that I perform in front of these young men because those words and actions may influence their young minds in a way where I did not intend to induce my biases.
We are human and we are prone to human frailties, vices and vitriol. The only way I know that we can ensure the physical and spiritual safety of our young charges is by removing, with a certainty, the basest parts of our nature. That may be removing anger, disillusionment, selfishness and pride. I know that if I eliminate these parts of me I would be more patient, humble and understanding. It may be thinking about others before myself which would result in being more readily available for the Scouts, more willing to serve those who are in need of service and more apt to recognize when someone needs support or a helping hand rather than waiting to be asked.
I was asked to help, teach, mentor and guard these young men and when I was given the task to do so, I committed myself to volunteering my time and resources to do so and to do it to the best that I possibly can. Does that make me an exceptional human being? No, it just means that I want to be useful (sometimes that means I feel used but whatever) and I want to be available for these young people. I want them to know that I will do my best to help them navigate through the hard and harsh realities of life.
Or maybe its just my way of repaying the excesses of my wasted youth.