Here are a whole bunch of Scoutmaster's Minutes. These were provided to me as one large file. My sincere thanks to Thomas B. Lerman Scoutmaster Troop 719, Provo District, Utah National Parks Council, for indexing these Scoutmaster's Minutes -- something that I probably wouuld never have gotten to. I believe you will find some very useful material here to support your troop meetings and other gatherings.
Table of Contents
We've been talking a lot about safety tonight, how to be safe ourselves and make our homes and community safe. I think the lesson is partly exercising our common sense and partly learning the skills of safety.
What do we mean by the skills of safety? Well for one thing, we're talking about learning to find the emergency escape doors and windows in a building like this one. We tried to do that tonight. From now on it will probably be in the back of your mind when you enter an unfamiliar building.
In other words, training your mind to think safety is one lesson. Another is carefulness and common sense. By being careful and using your common sense, you're not likely to get hit by a car while crossing the street. Still, a lot of kids are killed every year because they thought they could beat a car. Others die in accidents around the home that could have been prevented with a little more forethought. Still others get trapped in their burning homes, partly because they hadn't planned escape routes.
Safety is not the most exciting topic in the world, but it's a vital one for all of us to learn and to pass on to our younger brothers and sisters. Boring or not, the skills of safety are important. They may save your life or that of someone you love.
You new Scouts probably learned tonight that our troop neckerchief has other uses besides looking good and showing our troop's colors. You found that it can be used in first aid, too. Over the next few months, you'll find that the neckerchief has other uses, too.
There's one use, though, that you may not think of - and that's to remind you of the Scout Oath. The neckerchief is a triangle, and its' three corners should remind you of something you recently learned - our Scout Oath.
The Oath, you remember, has three corners, too - duty to God and country, duty to others and duty to self. From now on, every time you put on your neckerchief, it should remind you of the things you pledge each time you repeat the Scout Oath.
Scouts, what's the second point of the Scout Law? That's right, "A Scout is loyal. " Our Scout handbook explains that a Scout is loyal to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school and nation.
I'm going to add one more thing to that list - a Scout is loyal to his team. The team might be his patrol or sports team.
Your patrol or soccer team can't be as good as it should be if you goof off a lot or constantly complain about your teammates or your patrol leader or coach. A winning patrol and a winning team, must have a winning attitude. That means that every member must be willing to do his part and not spend time griping because the patrol's plans or the game are not going his way.
That doesn't mean that you have to be close friends with everybody in your patrol or team or even like all of them. But it means that when you join, you commit yourself to the success of the patrol or the team and pledge to give it your best effort.
In Scouting and sports, it's teamwork that makes winners. So whenever you're with your patrol or sports team, remember, "A Scout is loyal".
Probably some of you will earn the Sports merit badge this month. If so, the first thing you'll have to do, is understand what sportsmanship is, because it's the first requirement. I'd like to read you a little story from the Sports merit badge pamphlet which sums up sportsmanship very well. Here's the story.
"In 1940, an underdog Dartmouth football team played powerful Cornell, which needed only one more victory for a perfect season and a number-one ranking in the country. Trailing 3-0 Cornell scored a controversial touchdown that the Dartmouth players insisted was made on an extra "fifth down". However the referee counted the touchdown, and Cornell won 7-3.
But after the game, Cornell officials watched the game on film and saw that, indeed their team had been allowed and extra play. They immediately sent a telegram to Dartmouth stating that they could not accept the victory. It went into the record book as a 3-0 victory for Dartmouth. "
That little story tells us what sportsmanship really is. It is the desire to play hard and to win - but to win fairly - and if you lose, to accept defeat with good grace. Let's remember that during our Sports Tourney and throughout our lives. Also remember, that to be a good sport you have to lose to prove it.
Scouts, here's a little quiz for you: What's the most welcome two-word sentence in the English language? Some of you might say, it's "We won!" Others would vote for, "Here's money!" But I think the most welcome two-word sentence is "Thank you. "
It isn't used as often as it should be. How often do you use it? And how often do you say thank you to the persons who are closest to you, your mother and father? How often do you say it to your friends or even strangers when they do something for you?
It's so easy to forget, especially if the Good Turn is done by somebody in your family. Too often we take for granted the many things our parents and other family members do for us. Next week we're going to have a family night for members of our families. Here's a challenge for you. Between now and then, see if you can find some reason to say thank you every day to some member of your family. You may be surprised how they will react.
A simple thank you costs nothing, but it means so much to those who matter most to you. And remember, manners maketh man and can be the difference between you being just another Scout and one who earns himself respect from those around him.
As Americans, we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We live in freedom, most of us have an abundance of food and clothing, and we all have adequate shelter. We are as blessed as any people in the world, but sometimes we forget that and gripe that we don't have even more. Let's remember that a lot of the worlds population goes to bed hungry in homes hat few Americans would want to live in.
So it's good to remind ourselves occasionally that we are lucky and thank God for our blessings. That's what Thanksgiving really is, a time to give thanks. The Pilgrims started it more than 100 years ago when they gathered to thank God for a bountiful harvest.
Today Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings around a groaning table followed by watching football games. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's important that we don't forget the real meaning of Thanksgiving. So when you sit down with your family for Thanksgiving dinner, take time to count your blessings and thank God for them.
Most of you probably know somebody who has a physical or mental handicap. Chances are that he or she functions pretty well in spite of it. A little limp isn't going to keep anyone from living a full life, and a person who is a bit hard of hearing probably will get along quite well with that handicap.
But some people have severe handicaps. They might be legally blind, or completely deaf, or have to use a wheelchair to get around. But we should understand that they are people just like us, with the same needs, the same desires, and - except for the handicap - the same capabilities we have. In other words, handicapped people are more like you than different.
(If your troop will do a Good Turn for handicapped people:) Remember that when we do our Good Turn this month. When you meet a handicapped person, treat him or her exactly as you would want to be treated. The person might need a little help from you, but don't fuss over him. Do the minimum that's necessary to help then back off and treat him as you would your other friends.
Those of us who are able-bodied have a lot to be thankful for. But that doesn't make us any better or worse than people with severe handicaps. We are all children of God.
Christmas and Hanukkah are, for the most people, the most joyful holidays of the year. The holiday parties, the exchange of gifts, and the brilliant lights of the Christmas trees make a guy glad to be alive at this season.
Sometimes we forget that these holidays are really religious festivals. It's well to remember that the real holiday spirit is cast by the Star of Bethlehem and the Hanukkah candles, reminding us of the miracles in times past.
In the 12th point of the Scout Law we say that a Scout is reverent. That doesn't mean that he has to go around all the time with a long face or with hands folded in prayer. It means that he does his duty to God, which includes doing things for God's other creatures. We'll be doing that later this month with our troop Good Turn.
Now remembering that a Scout is reverent, let's close with the Scout benediction.
Well, Scouts, did you make any New Year's resolutions? I hope some of you resolved to bring up your grades in school and be more helpful around the house. I'm sure your parents would be delighted with those resolutions.
In Scouting, we make a resolution almost every time we meet. Each time we repeat the Scout Oath or Law, we're resolving to do our best to do our duty and to make ourselves the best citizens we can be. I'm inclined to think that resolving to follow the Scout Oath and Law are the most important resolutions you can make - now and in the time to come. The Oath and Law cover almost everything that makes a good man and a good citizen. So, I think, as we start the New Year, we ought to repeat the Oath and Law and think about what we're saying. (Lead Oath and Law)
Tonight we've spent a lot of time talking about ethics - about honesty and fairness and respect for others. Now I'll tell you a true story about a Scout who showed what those things mean.
His name is Andrew J. Flosdorf, and in 1983 he was a 1st Class Scout in Troop 42 of Fonda NY Andy was in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, competing for the championship and a chance for a scholarship.
During a break in the competition, Andy went to the judges and told them that although they thought he had spelled "echolalia" correctly, he had mistakenly substituted an "e" for the first "a" in the word, which means a speech disorder. He said he discovered his error when he looked it up afterwards.
By admitting the mistake, that the judges hadn't caught, Andy eliminated himself from the competition. The chief judge said, "We want to commend him for his utter honesty," and the crowd gave him an ovation.
But Andy didn't tell them about his error to earn cheers. He wanted to win as much as the other contestants, but he wanted to win fairly. "The first rule of Scouting is honesty," Andy told the judges.
"I didn't want to feel like a slime. "
I don't know what has happened to Andy Flosdorf since then, but I'm sure of two things. He learned one of Scouting's most important lessons, and gave us an example of honesty and fairness that all of us should shoot for.
Who can tell me what "salt of the earth" means? That's right, it means a person who has a fine character and is a nice guy to be around. The expression "salt of the earth" probably came from the fact that common salt improves the taste of a lot of foods. As you young Scouts will discover while you are working on your Cooking skill award, salt is used in many recipes - maybe most of them for breakfast and dinner dishes.
Just as the salt improves the flavor of many foods, a person who is the salt of the earth improves the lives of those around him. He lives every day by the Scout Oath and Law, even if he's not a Scout. He does his daily Good Turn and he deals fairly with everyone he meets.
You can be the salt of the earth, too, just by living the Oath and Law. Let's remind ourselves of what it takes by repeating the Law now (Lead Law. )
A long time ago, a joker said, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. " That isn't really true anymore because scientists can seed clouds with chemicals to make rain fall - if there are clouds , that is.
Next week we're going to be outdoors, possibly in foul weather, for our Foul-Weather Cook-Out (or See'n'do). It may be snowing or raining cats and dogs while we're out there, but we'll be there just the same because this is not a fair weather troop.
It may not be as much fun as being outdoors on a sunny summer day, but it's part of outdoor life, and as Scouts we belong outdoors. As long as you have a poncho, warm clothes and a pair of dry socks and underwear in your pack, you can enjoy bad weather, too.
At least I hope you can. I like to see Scouts smiling in the rain because a real Scout is cheerful even when things aren't 100% perfect.
The weather, and life, aren't always predictable. One of the lessons you should be earning as Scouts is to be prepared for foul weather as well as fair.
So the key words for next weeks outing are "Be Prepared" and "A Scout is cheerful. " If you follow that advice, you'll have a fine time, no matter what the weather is.
If I gave you a choice, which would you rather have, the apple or the seeds? I guess most of us would choose the apple.
A long time ago there was a guy who would have taken the seeds. He was a nut about apple seeds - so much so that people called him Johnny Appleseed. For many years he walked across hundreds of miles of our country, back when most of it was frontier land, and everywhere he went he planted apple seeds. The trees from those seeds fed many thousands of people in later generations. That's real long range planning!
Many of us are interested mainly in the present. We don't think ahead like Johnny Appleseed.
Maybe you don't want to go around planting apple seeds like he did. But there's another kind of seed you should be planting every day - the seed of good feelings between you and your fellow man.
You can do it by living our slogan, "Do a Good Turn daily. " Every time you do a Good Turn , you are planting a seed of good feeling. That seed may start the growth of a tree of Good Turns in each person you help. So that one Good Turn may lead to many other Good Turns through the years, affecting the lives of hundreds of people.
Scouts, I'm sure you've all seen a diamond. It's very hard, very bright and very beautiful. Most of you have probably seen coal, too. It's dull black and it crumbles easily.
Now a little chemistry lesson. Who can tell me how coal and diamonds are alike? That's right - both are made from the element carbon. But a diamond has great value because it is rare. I compare the diamond to a man of sharp mind, hard body and shining bright spirit. The coal might be compared to a man who is not mentally sharp, physically tough or spiritually bright.
Someone once said that a diamond is just a piece of coal that stuck to it. Over many millions of years, its brilliance was caused by the heat and pressure inside our earth.
My hope is that like that diamond you will stick to it by following our Scouting ideals. If you do, you will become an example of what a man should be.
Once a long time ago a hound was out with his master trailing a mountain lion. The hound came to a place where a fox had crossed the trail, and the hound decided to follow the fox instead of the lion.
A short time later, a rabbit crossed that of the fox, and again the hound changed direction. Why should he chase a fox when a rabbit might be easier to catch?
When the hunter finally caught up with his hound, the dog was barking at a small hole in the ground. The hound had brought to bay a field mouse instead of a mountain lion.
Well, how about you? Have you set out on a trail to achieve your ambition? Are you able to follow it, or are you sidetracked by easier trails that cross it from time to time?
Don't be like that hound. Find out what it takes to achieve your ambition, and then get started. The best way to achieve anything in life is to set a true course for it and then stick to that trail.
Scouts, where did the design for the Scout badge come from? Did you know that it's from the north point of the mariners' compass? Now why did Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, select that symbol for the first Scout badge? In his book, Scouting for Boys, Baden- Powell told us.
He said, "It is the badge of the Scout because it points in the right direction, and upwards. It shows the way in doing your duty and helping others. "
In other words, just as the north point of the compass helps us find our way in the field, so the Scout badge helps us find our way through life.
So the shape of our Scout badge should be a constant reminder to us of the things we pledge when we say the Scout Oath or Law. Let's think about that badge and what it means the next time we're tempted to do something we know is wrong.
These pieces of rope are a lot like individual Scouts. You can use these ropes for knot tying practice or for tying a small package, but they're not big enough for really big jobs. (Call up two or three Scouts and asked them to join the ropes together with square knots or sheet bends. ) Now we have a much more useful rope, one we could use for pioneering or other jobs where we need a good length of rope.
Your patrol and the whole troop work the same way. Scouts who work together like these ropes can achieve much bigger things. But remember that this rope is only as strong as its' weakest link. The same idea applies to our patrols and troop. They can't be strong unless everyone pulls together. Teamwork is just as important in Scouting as it is on a football team.
Strive to a strong link in your patrol. Do the best to live by the ideals we talk about in the Scout Oath and Law. Learn your Scouting skills to the best of your ability, and take part in everything the troop and your patrol do. Don't be a weak link.
Some years ago a hard-nosed coach said, "Winning isn't everything, but it sure beats whatever's second. " There's some truth in that. Everyone likes to win. Very few people enjoy losing.
The trouble is that in every type of competition, there must be losers as well as winners. That's true in sports and it's also true in the competitions we will have next week at our camp-out (or camporee).
It's also true in life. You and every other human being find that sometimes you have to be a loser. Perhaps your sports team loses a game on an unlucky break. Or maybe you work hard in school but get low grades. Some people might say you're a loser.
Maybe so. But you don't have to stay a loser. The real difference between winners and losers is that a loss makes some people more determined to do better next time. In the long run they are the winners because they learn to profit by their defeats and mistakes.
No, winning isn't everything. We can learn from losses, too. Let's remember that at the campout and in the years to come.
Probably all of you know some guy who is grouchy all the time. His neighbors try to be nice to him, but he just won't be friendly. Maybe he'll build a great wall around his house to keep people away.
Let me tell you about another kind of neighbor I heard about. There was no wall around his property, and somebody noticed that a strip of grass between his yard and his neighbor's yard was unusually green. How come? He was asked.
"Oh," he laughed, " my neighbor and I are so afraid we'll cheat each other that we always water and fertilize the grass across the line on the other fellows side. That strip of grass down the property line gets twice as much water and fertilizer as the rest of our yards. " Instead of a fence to keep each other away, that man and his neighbor had a vivid green reminder that they were friends.
The point of this story is that if you want to have friends, you can't build walls between yourselves and other people. Instead, cultivate that space between you by being as fair to the other guy as you'd like him to be to you. A Scout is friendly, and the way to have friends - and keep them - is to be friendly yourself.
In the year 1805, some plotters tried to set up a new government in some of the southern states. When the plot was discovered, the traitors were tried for conspiracy against the United States government. One of them was Philip Nolan, an Army officer. During his trial, the president of the court asked Nolan whether he wished to say anything to show that he had always been faithful to the United States. Nolan replied, "Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!"
He got his wish. Nolan was put on a Navy ship with instructions that he should never hear the name of his country or get any information about it. Years went by. Nolan became a changed man. In his heart, he had an intense love for the US
Philip Nolan finally died. A note with his last request was found in his Bible. The note said: "Bury me in the sea, it has been my home and I love it But will not someone set up a stone for my memory at Fort Adams or at Orleans, that my disgrace may not be more than I ought to bear? Say on it: 'In memory of Philip Nolan, lieutenant in the Army of the United States. He loved his country as no other man has loved her; but no man deserves less at her hand. ' "
[Note: Everett Hale (1822-1909) was the nephew of Edward Everett and the grand nephew of Nathan Hale. Hale was a forthright Unitarian pastor, known for his strong opposition to slavery. He is best known for his fictional story ``The Man Without a Country'', which was so realistically written that readers thought it was true. -- Thanks to Daniel W. Roffee ]
I'm sure you've all heard of the IQ and know it stands for intelligence quotient. It's supposed to be a measure of intelligence. Probably you've taken IQ tests, although you may not have known it, so that your school would have some idea of how bright you are.
The experts aren't all in agreement that IQ tests are all that accurate, but they apparently do provide at least a rough measure of intelligence. In theory, at least, your IQ score won't very much from childhood to adulthood.
Maybe you can't do much about your IQ, but there's another kind of test in which your own efforts will raise your score. I'll call it your "FQ" - your Fitness Quotient. By regular, vigorous exercise, and by having good health habits, you can lift your FQ score many points.
In doing the fitness tests for the Physical Fitness skill award and the Personal Fitness merit badge, you establish your present FQ score. If your scores on those tests are just about average or below, I suggest you make up your mind to raise them much higher. All it takes is a decision to do it, and then - most important - following through on the exercises and health habits that will do the trick.
If you do that, by the end of the summer your Fitness Quotient will be much higher than it is now.
In the patrol leaders council, we often talk about the skills of leadership. Patrol leaders who have taken the junior leader training course know even more about them. Of the 11 skills of leadership, I believe the most important is setting the example. There's an old saying that sums it up well. It goes something like this: "What you do speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you say. " In other words, don't tell me what is right; show me by your example.
It seems to me that when it comes to setting the example, we are all leaders. Even if you're not a patrol leader, the way you conduct yourself will rub off on your patrolmates. If one patrol member goofs off and is sloppy in his habits, there's a temptation to say, "Well, Brian gets away with it, why shouldn't I?"
That may be human nature, but it's not the nature of a good patrol or a good troop. A good patrol and troop have to work like a team, with every member setting a good example of Scoutlike behavior. Let's keep that in mind always, but especially when we're in summer camp (or on tour). Let's show our pride in our troop and in ourselves as Scouts and young men.
Scouts, what do the following merit badges have in common: Canoeing, Motorboating, Rowing, Small-Boat Sailing, and Water Skiing? I'll give you a hint - they all have the same first requirement.
You guessed it. All those badges require that a Scout be classed a "swimmer" before he even gets started on the badge. It's pretty obvious why you must be a swimmer before you can go out into the deep water in a canoe or other craft.
As I think you all know, to be classed as a swimmer you have to be able to swim 100 yards, do the elementary backstroke, and be able to rest in water by floating. To those who swim well, that's a piece of cake. To those who don't it could be a challenge.
You're not going to able to go canoeing or rafting until you can meet the test. We're going to spend time this month helping the non-swimmers and beginners so that by the time of our Water Rendezvous, most of you - maybe all - will be able to swim the hundred.
Being able to swim well will unlock the door to those other badges. It will also give you a life-long sport, one that you will be able to enjoy for many years after you no longer have the ability to play other sports. That's one of the reasons we go swimming now. The other of course is that it's fun.
Every year about 200 Scouts earn medals for saving life. A lot of them performed water rescues. Probably you've read about some of those rescues in the Boys Life feature called "Scouts in Action".
Do you suppose all those Scouts who saved people from drowning were great swimmers? No, not necessarily. Some of them may not have even been very good swimmers because - remember - you try to reach, throw, or row to a drowning person before you jump in and swim. Many medals have gone to guys who didn't swim at all, but who were able to act when everybody else was panicking, and tossed a rope or reached a pole to the person in trouble.
We've been practicing the reach, throw and row water rescue methods. Those of you who have the Lifesaving merit badge also know the Go method.
So all of us should be prepared to help somebody who is in trouble in the water. If you're not, practice some more. Then you'll be ready when you're needed.
With great regret we announce the loss of one of the councils most valuable families - Mr. & Mrs. Someone Else have moved away, and the vacancy they have left will be hard to fill. The Elses have been with us for many years; they have done far more than their share of the work about the council. When there was a job to do, a class to teach, or a meeting to attend, their name was on everybody's lips: "Let Someone Else do it" Whenever a committee was mentioned, this wonderful family was looked to for inspiration as well as results: "Someone Else will set up the event. " And when there was a trip to take Mr. & Mrs. Someone Else were thought to be the best transportation: "Let Someone Else take them. "
The Someone Elses are wonderful people, but they are only human, they could spread themselves only so thin. Many a night I have sat up and talked with someone and heard him wish aloud for more help in the council. He and his wife did the best they could, but people expected too much from them. We have to face the fact that there were just not enough Someone Elses to go around. And now the Someone Elses are gone and we're wondering what we are going to do without them. They have left us a great example to follow, but who will follow it? Who is going to do the things that someone else did?
Tonight we've been learning how to find directions on a map and use the compass to stay on course. By now I hope most of you can orient a map and use map and compass to travel in unknown country.
In Scouting we have another kind of "map and compass. " They are the Scout Oath, Law, motto and slogan. They are excellent guides for traveling through life.
Whenever you are wondering what's the right thing to do, consult those "maps and compasses. " They won't always provide and easy answer. Sometimes you will have to think through your decision, but it will be easier if you ask yourself, "What if I act according to the Scout Oath and Law?" Chances are the Law will help to show you the right thing to do.
Next week we'll be outdoors again, and it's good to remind ourselves that Scouts obey the Wilderness Pledge whenever they are hiking, camping, or on other activities away from the meeting place. You should be familiar with the Wilderness Pledge. It says, "Through good camping and hiking practices, I pledge myself to preserve the beauty and splendor of Americas' wilderness, primitive and backcountry areas. I commit myself to:
Set a personal example in following the Outdoor Code.
Train those I lead in the skills and attitudes needed to protect and preserve wilderness for future generations.
Assure that parties of which I am a part observe the camping and hiking standards that will leave no trace of our passing. "
It seems to me that what it boils down to is that in the Wilderness Pledge we commit ourselves as Scouts not only to preserve the environment but to make it better. For example, not only don't we leave litter ourselves, we pick up other peoples litter. And we not only build safe fires, we try to make sure that others do, too. In other words we take responsibility as Scouts to do whatever we can to keep America beautiful.
That may seem like a tall order. Nobody enjoys picking up other peoples litter. It's a lot easier to just say, "Boy, what a mess!" and pass it by. But that's not the Scouting way.
On all our hikes and campouts, let's leave the land better than we found it. That's Scouting's way.
Scouts, our theme this month is called, "Moving on the Scouting Trail". What do we mean when we talk about the Scouting Trail. That's right, it's the path that leads from Scout rank through First Class up to the Eagle Scout badge. Very few guys make it all the way. The only ones that do are guys who can set a goal and then work hard to achieve it.
One way to get started toward the goal is to set yourself a more modest goal. If you're a Tenderfoot now, make up your mind that you're going to earn Second Class in time for our Court of Honor at the end of the month - or at least by the Court of Honor in February. The Chinese have a saying that is appropriate here. They say, "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. "
That's a good thing to remember, not only in Scouting but in life, too. You can't progress if you never get started.
You're going to have plenty of chances to pass advancement requirements in our troop meetings this month - and every month.
Take advantage of those opportunities. We're also going to concentrate on advancement during our campout late this month. That's another chance to get moving on the Scouting trail.
It's my hope that by time our February Court of Honor rolls around, every one of you will be a rank higher than you are today.
You remember that in September I mentioned Robert Baden-Powell, the British general who started Scouting a long time ago. He had a lot of good advice for Scouts, and now I'd like to read what he had to say about honesty.
He said, "Honesty is a form of honor. An honorable man can be trusted with any amount of valuables with the certainty that he will not steal it. Cheating at any time is a sneaking, underhanded thing to do. "
"When you feel inclined to cheat in order to win a game, or feel distressed when a game in which you are playing is going against you, just say to yourself, "After all, it is only a game. It won't kill me if I do lose. One can't always win though I will stick to it in case of a chance coming. "
"If you keep your head in this way, you will very often find that you win after all from not being over anxious or despairing. And don't forget, whenever you do lose a game, if you are a true Scout, you will at once cheer the winning team or shake hands with and congratulate the fellow who has beaten you. "
Does anybody know what this is? That's right it's a plumb line. Carpenters and masons use a plumb line to make sure their work is perfectly straight and vertical.
Supposing you were building a brick wall and you built it just by guesswork. Then I came along with this plumb line and laid it against your wall. Both of us could see the wall was crooked if the plumb line told us so.
You might get mad about it and throw my plumb line as far as you could. But that wouldn't make the wall any straighter, would it?
In Scouting, we have another kind of plumb line, and in a way it shows us how straight we are. Scouting's plumb line is the Scout Oath and Law. They tell us how to build our lives straight and true. When we don't follow the Oath and Law, we know it, don't we? If we've been untrustworthy, disloyal or unfriendly to someone, our plumb line - the Scout Law - is there in the back of our mind to remind us that we are not building our lives in a straight and true way.
The Scout never lived who never once violated the Scout Oath and Law. But those pledges, our plumb line, should always be our guide.
We've been talking about the Constitution and the freedom it gives us as citizens.
But how free are we? What does freedom mean? Does it mean we can do anything that we want? I think we will agree that the answer is no. Freedom of speech for example, does mean that we can go into a crowded theater and yell "Fire!" And freedom certainly doesn't mean that we can steal from people or assault them without fear of being arrested, tried, and perhaps thrown into jail. As somebody once said, "Your freedom to swing your fist ends just beyond the tip of my nose. "
So what does freedom mean in the sense of the Constitution? It means, I believe that we are free to live according to the laws of God, free to worship as we choose, to speak and write the truth as we see it, to choose our life's work, and to travel where we want to go - and to grant the same rights to others.
The Constitution does not give us unlimited rights to act without regard to other people. But it does guarantee us the right to live as free men in a society whose citizens are equal in the eyes of the law.
Well, Scouts, the new year is here and it's time for New Year's resolutions. In other words, as our theme this month says, it's time for a fresh start.
I don't know whether you make New Year's resolutions, but if you do, I hope that one of them is to move up Scouting's advancement ladder. Next month we'll be having a Court of Honor, and I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of you receiving awards then. I'm especially hopeful that those of you who haven't moved up a rank since last spring will get busy this month and do it in time for the Court of Honor.
All it takes is determination and some work, I'm sure your patrolmates will help you, and of course our leaders will, too. But you have to make the effort, no one can do that for you.
So let's have a fresh start from everybody in the troop this month so that every Scout is called forward at our Court of Honor in February.
It may seem funny to say so, but you're very lucky that is hurts when you hit your finger with a hammer. If it didn't hurt you could be in big trouble.
It's a rarity when a person can't feel pain, but it does happen. Some years ago, for example, there was an eight year old boy in England who couldn't feel pain. For some reason, his nerves, did not signal pain to his brain.
If you think he was lucky, think again. The problem could cost him his life. Once he was seriously burned by a red-hot oven door, but he didn't even know it until he was snatched away.
So it is clear that physical pain can save us from mortal danger. But there is another kind of pain, too, and all of us here can feel it. It's a spiritual or moral pain, and it's called conscience. The conscience is one of our greatest gifts. Without our conscience, we would not know enough to keep from getting burned in even more serious ways than that English boy.
So as the old saying goes, "Let your conscience be your guide. " It will help you to know whether you are following the Scout Oath and Law. You have no better friend that your conscience.
Our theme this month is called "Scouting is Alive," but I think it ought to be "Scouting is alive and well and living in (your community). "
I guess the theme is supposed to remind us that 78 years after the first troops were started in the United States, Scouting still offers fun and adventure to boys. Certainly that's what we do in this troop.
But maybe this is a good time, as we think about this theme, to ask ourselves, "Are we alive in Scouting?" Do we take part in all patrol and troop activities? Are we advancing on the Scouting trail? Are we trying to live by the Scout Oath and Law? In other words, are we "alive" Scouts? Or are we deadwood?
Late this month we're going to have a court of honor to recognize those Scouts who have earned advancement and shown the Scout Spirit that is required to make this troop alive and well. I hope that each one of you will be on the list to receive a rank advancement, merit badge, or other award.
Let's remind ourselves that every time that we repeat the Scout Oath, we pledge, "On my honor, I will do my best. . . " That's a good guide for living, not just in Scouting but in everything we do.
Did you know that you have millions of brothers? Who do you think they might be.
That's right, Scouts all over the world. We often speak of the World Brotherhood of Scouting, and that's exactly what it is - millions of boys and men who are divided by nationality and religious belief, but united in the ideals of Scouting.
Many millions of those brothers of yours in Scouting are very poor. To help them enjoy Scouting, the Boy Scouts of America has a special treasury called the World Friendship Fund. Through that fund, your brothers can get training materials, tents, even uniforms in some cases. It's one way we can show our loyalty to Scouting and our brotherhood with other boys and men.
At our Family Party, we are going to ask you to give a small amount to help our brothers. If you can afford a dollar, give that. If the best you can do is a quarter or a dime, fine. But I hope everyone here will try to contribute something.
We in the United States are amongst the luckiest people on earth. Some of us may be poor, but nearly all of us would be considered wealthy by the standards of some other countries. Show your appreciation for your good fortune, and your willingness to help other Scouts, by bringing something for the World Friendship Fund to the party.
Did you know that car manufacturers try out there new models on some of the worst roads in the world? They can't find any ordinary roads that are bad enough for the purpose, so they build special tracks with ruts, bumps, and potholes that are incredibly bad.
Now why do they do that, do you suppose? That's right, they want to give their cars the toughest possible test so that they can learn about the weak spots. The idea is that they will fix the weak spots before the cars go on sale.
Are you like a new car model that never was tested? Are you cheerful when the going is easy but a grumbler and griper when there is trouble? Are you like a shiny new car that falls to pieces when it gets a tough road test?
In a way, Scouting is like a road test. We challenge ourselves with rugged backpacking trips and other adventures to see whether or not we can take it. As Scouts we like to find out what our limits are, and if we find weak spots, we try to correct them.
That way, we'll be ready for life's bumps and potholes. Then people will say of us, "Those guys can take it".
One of the goals of Scouting is physical fitness, and we've been paying special attention to it this month. It's fun to test yourself against standards to see how fit you are and to compete against other Scouts in fitness games and contests.
Bit there is a more important reason for all this physical activity. It's to make you fit for life. If you become physically fit now, the chances are you will be physically fit when you reach full manhood.
You should remember though, that physical fitness is not just being strong and athletic. It's also knowing how to take care of your body - what to fit it, how much rest it needs, and what not to put into it. I'm thinking, of course, of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco smoke.
Probably you'll face a lot of pressure in the next few years to try drugs, smoking, and alcohol. No doubt some of you already have.
Some guys you think of as friends will actually tell you that trying drugs is cool. Actually, it's about as cool as sticking your hand in a campfire. Don't learn that the hard way. Stay away from drugs and drinking and stay fit for life.
Scouts, if your rank is between Second Class and Life, take a look at your badge of rank. What do all those badges have in common?
That's right, they all have the "Be Prepared" scroll with a knot dangling from it. . Does anyone remember what the knot is supposed to remind us of?
Right again. It's a reminder to do a Good Turn every day. If the knot could talk, it would tell us of billions of Good Turns stretching back over 88 years. Are you adding a chapter to that story each day?
Our troop often does big Good Turns for our chartered organization or the community. But does that mean that you can forget about Good Turns the rest of the time? Of course not. As Scouts you have pledged to do a Good Turn daily. Obviously that doesn't mean you have to spend several hours on some major project.
But it does mean that at home, in school, and when you're with friends you will go out of your way to do a simple kindness - take out the garbage without being asked, help a buddy with his homework, or run an errand for your mother without grumbling.
Those little Good Turns make life more pleasant for other people. They also add another link in that long string of Good Turns going back to Scoutings beginnings.
Every once in a while when you're working on a pioneering project, you'll find a spar that looks great but that turns out to be weak and unreliable.
Maybe its' center has been eaten away by insects. Or maybe have natural splits inside that you can't see. You can test a spar for soundness by holding one end and rapping the other end sharply on a rock. If it's sound you'll hear it ring.
Some people are like defective spars. They look great on the outside and they may have appealing personalities, the kind of guys and girls you think you would like to know. But when you do get to know them better, you find that they're like a defective spar, weak inside. They don't have the strength of character to resist things that you know is wrong, and chances are they will want you to do those things, too.
When that happens, do the same thing you do when you have a defective spar - cast it aside and find a sounder one. In other words, choose friends who are solid to the core.
Tonight we've been discussing the oxygen and water cycles and how food chains support life on earth. We've learned that this little leaf can work a miracle.
Who can tell me what the miracle is? This leaf is a food factory - it can make food by using the sunlight to turn nutrients
from the soil and carbon dioxide into food. And at the same time, it produces the oxygen that we and wildlife must have to live.
Life could not exist without the miracle represented by this leaf and all the other plants that can perform the miracle.
What's the point in this lesson in biology? The point is that because we can't survive without plants, it is in our own interest to make sure that this food factory survives. And that's why we must
fight pollution and why we must practice conservation like planting trees and shrubs. The whole idea is to encourage these little food factories to produce food and oxygen for wildlife and ourselves.