Well, you're all not really my target audience for this one today. I will be doing a rare thing and I'll tootle my own horn and pass this along to the book of face.
February 8, 2016 was the 106th birthday of the Boy Scouts of America. In the days following, there have been a number of stories circulating around the Book of Face asking the same thing - Is Scouting still relevant?.
Well of course you know my position. 2016 marks my 28th year as a volunteer with this organization, and I have 10 years before that as a youth member. Do the math; I'm turning 50 this year...only 8 of those years were spent without wearing a Scout uniform. (Yes, it doesn't quite add up - four of those years I was not active, but I was still a registered Scouter. I was going to college at the time, and my 'home unit' kept me registered for those years.)
There are two things that you'd probably be familiar with, even if you know nothing about scouting. One is the "Eagle Project". As the highest rank in Scouting, there's literally years worth of work and effort to earn it. The centerpiece is the project, which is deceptively simple per the description in the requirement.
While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting.) A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your unit leader and unit committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-927, in meeting this requirement.
My Scout troop just matriculated 7 Eagle scouts, and just to sample a couple of the projects....one scout built a wheelchair ramp so residents of a local elderly housing complex could access a neighboring park. One scout raised funds, bought outdoor musical instruments for a playground, and installed them for the local YMCA. One scout invented a game for the elementary school to teach diversity and understanding of so-called 'special needs' students and taught every student in the building how to play.
The list goes on and on....and this happens in every city and town in the United States, every year.
The other thing everybody knows is the catchphrase "Be Prepared". Be prepared for what?, you may ask. As our founder once said - "Any old thing". The most visible and visceral examples of being prepared are those occasions when an ordinary youth member, some of them quite young, have saved another life, even at considerable risk to themselves.
So is Scouting still relevant?
Scouting is still relevant when you can trust someone, or when they remain loyal to their friends, family, beliefs or ideals. Scouting is relevant when a stranger is helpful for a minute, or somebody you don't know is friendly instead of indifferent and shows you common courtesies instead of being rude. Scouting is relevant when a kind word is spoken at the right time, or when we all do something we should take for granted, like obeying the rules of the road or parking between the lines. Scouting is relevant when you get a cheerful 'Good Morning' instead of grunts, or you can be cheerful yourself when something you want or need is instantly available because of your careful planning and thrift. Scouting is relevant when we're brave enough to do the right thing, even if it means considerable risk to ourselves, and we all remain relevant throughout society when we keep our minds, attitudes and actions clean, legal, and above-board....and if we show our reverence to whatever spiritual guidance we believe in, without forcing it upon others who might be different from us.
In 28 years of work, these are the things I teach. I've lost count of how many boys that have come through my Troops and have gone on to Eagle, but even those lesser ranks have ongoing influence to society. (My own sainted Scoutmaster was only a Life Scout in his youth.)
In many ways though, Scouting is a closed society. Scouts become scouts because their parents were, or because their friends ask them to. The challenge remains not to remain relevant - but to make sure that relevance is known outside the organization and to continue to grow and prosper.