Community Service

Over the past several weeks (months? years?) I have had many Scouts and parents ask “what is the community service requirement to advance?”  I wanted to spend a little time today talking about community service, what it is, why we do it, and how much is enough.The past two weekends, our troop has had the opportunity to participate in two very different, but very meaningful community service projects.  The first one was honoring all of the fallen men and women who gave their life for our country by placing flags of remembrance and respect on their graves.  Although this is a brief ceremony, it is one that has great significance as it our generations attempt to remember those that have given their life in “community service” – protecting our country and our way of life.  To this day, I still cannot participate in a public ceremony as the memories of my friends and classmates from the Naval Academy that have passed is too great.The second service opportunity is one that should be dear to many of our scouts and scouters – rebuilding the trails that we use every time we go backpacking or hiking.  Since our troop inception, we have participated in every Trails Day that has been held here in Los Angeles – six in total.

To me, community service is giving of your time, talent or treasure to make your community a better place to live.  More specifically, in our troop, in must be organized at least at the patrol level and needs to be done in uniform to let others know that it is the Boy Scouts of America that is giving back to our community.  As part of organizing the event, it must be brought up and approved at the Patrol Leaders’ Council held every month.  Ideally it will be proposed by the Scouts, but Scouters are always welcome to propose opportunities too.

When we founded our troop, we made a commitment to focus on helping our boys, our young men, our scouts, become leaders in the community.  To do this, they need to be able to look at their community critically, identify what needs to be done, and take the steps needed to do it.  This means we should be participating in community service every day.  As any Scout knows, we should all “Do a Good Turn Daily”.  So to answer my last two questions, we should do it to because it is the right thing to do.  It is what should be expected of our Scouts.  It is what we must demand of them.  And not a single Scout (or parent) has reached the level of having done enough community service.

I would ask everyone to think about this the next time a service project is planned.  Think about why we do community service.  Think about what we want our scouts to gain from the project.  If your answer is “I have all of the hours I need for rank advancement”, then perhaps you are not ready for rank advancement as you do not understand what it means to be a leader in the community.  If your answer is “I don’t backpack” or “I am not part of that group”, then propose a service project that means something to you.  Do not let an opportunity to develop your character and give back to your community pass you by.  Do not let others pick up the mantle of service that we should be carrying.

As Lord Acton said, “Duty [is] not taught by the state.”  I can only add, it is taught by parents and needs to be taught everyday.

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