Most people that know me are aware that I owe much of my foundation and success in life to a very positive experience in the Boy Scouts of America. There were many lame troops and leaders not worth their salt but I, and several of my closest friends, were fortunate in finding ourselves thrown together as a cohort in an excellent troop that spent much of it’s time camping, hiking, and generally messing about in outdoors; we were unknowingly living the roots of Scouting and loving it every day.
I recently came across a copy of what is known as Baden-Powell’s (founder of the Boy Scouts) last message to Scouts. I even kept a framed copy of this hanging on my wall for many years. While working at camp, we often read this short piece out loud at closing campfires as a fine message and an excellent way to bring an end to an exciting week of learning and adventure.
I think he does well to distill his core values in a few simple lines.
“Happiness doesn’t come from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man.”
B-P knew both great hardship and prosperity during his life and understood that most youth to whom he was speaking had very little themselves. Real happiness come from within.
“Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.”
A core value in Scouting has always been to give cheerfully to others and in that way find satisfaction and meaning in one’s own life.
“the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best.”
As he ends his letter, he segues from childhood to transition the message into one of lifelong relevance.
“‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy – stick to your Scout promise always – even after you have ceased to be a boy.”