Thanks, Mr. Scoutmaster!


I will admit, right off, that my photographs are often opportunistic. The stuff I like best is seldom planned, set up, or posed. I’m sure it’s my background as a journalist, but staged really doesn’t work outside of portrait sessions.

This series of shots is a good example. I took (my grandson) David to his Boy Scout meeting and intended to keep my camera in my pocket. But I just couldn’t. So eventually, with about five minutes left, I absolutely had to grab some pictures.

untitledThe above photograph is priceless. Half the Scoutmaster’s head is cut off, but the body language tells it all. Five boys and one well-prepared but seriously outgunned adult. After sixty-minutes of strategic interplay I couldn’t help but think about those classic National Geographic specials: “The pack of young cubs has isolated the helpless animal – the large wildebeest may be bigger and stronger, but it’s only a matter of time…”

I am thankful for generous-hearted volunteers.

Polite and respectful:

I hear it at church, at school, even at the store: “Your grandchildren are so polite and respectful.” That’s nice to know, but the only reason people notice is because so many children are raised in environments where politeness and respect are neither modeled nor required.

I’ll grant that our grandchildren have kind and tender hearts. But the other stuff – the good behavior, and the “yes sir,” and the listening, and the raising of hands before talking – these are all teachable skills not out of reach for any child. But only if such social graces are valued.

So I’m proud that David and Beks stand out – but at the same time it concerns me. I honestly believe that children who are taught to respect authority and follow rules not only learn more but they have more fun too. Otherwise it’s like a game of soccer with no goals, or tennis with no net, or basketball with no hoop, or ping-pong with no table.

Kudos to the Scouts:

IMG_8237So kudos to the Scoutmaster for being such a good guy, for coming up with interesting activities, and for investing himself in children. But these volunteers – and teachers, and parents – need more backup from every last one of us.

I’m going to let one of my students sum this up, from my days teaching children who had been so disruptive for so long that my classroom was literally their last chance. “Thanks for running a tight ship, Mr. Derek. I feel safer here with you.”

Discipline isn’t about punishment, it’s about providing a framework within which growth, learning, and fun can occur. Children – just like every living organism – require the right conditions in order to thrive. I am thankful my grandchildren are thriving, I just don’t think politeness should stand out from the crowd.

Thanks, Mr. Scoutmaster, for doing your part in a responsibility that belongs to us all.


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