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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

"On My Honor;" Reflections on a Boy Scout's Life*

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, January 31, 2010
as "Boy Scout's Lives Shaped in Honor and Courage"

*Waterbury, CT Republican-American, February 20, 2010

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

Written content only
In 1909, a publisher from Chicago, W. D. Boyce, on a visit to England, encountered a Boy Scout. As they spoke, the American was deeply impressed by the philosophy which had guided the youngster’s development. Upon his return to America, he incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. It was Deputy Chief Scout Executive George J. Fisher in 1937 who articulated their goal:

"Each generation as it comes to maturity has no more important duty than that of teaching high ideals and proper behavior to the generation which follows."

The BSA’s current mission is "to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
I was a Boy Scout, an Eagle, and a proud one. I remember with great clarity the moment that medal was bestowed. It was the first meaningful thing I‘d done in my life.

Though that moment lies almost 40 years in my past, the important things Scouting taught live within me still.

“On my honor…” For millions of Scouts who have worn the uniform, honor is their most prized possession. It is an unyielding standard by which they are judged, and by which they judge others. Their word is very much their bond.

“I will do my best…” A Scout is defined by this promise. Every task will receive his full effort. He finishes what he starts, and every effort is his best effort.

“To do my duty…” Duty is a moral obligation to the highest ideals of responsibility and accountability. To do what must be done, when it needs to be done, regardless of how daunting the task.

“To God...” To believe in and acknowledge the presence of God is faith that life does has order and purpose; that there is something larger outside of ourselves. And that irregardless of where we are and what we’ve done, we are still loved unconditionally.

“…and my country.” A Scout learns that freedom is not free; that the cost has been paid by the blood of patriots great and humble throughout our history. He recognizes that America is far from perfect, but that he can be a force for good.

“To obey the Scout Law.” A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Each one of these 12 standards are achieved by simply making the decision to live by them. A Scout knows that to be a moral person requires discipline…and courage. And he is willing to make that effort.

“To help other people at all times.” The iconic image of a Scout helping a little old lady across the street is widely recognized. Service to others lies at the heart of scouting. The Scout Slogan, “Do a good turn daily,” reflects that commitment. A Scout is focused on the needs of the larger community around him. Scouts in the upper ranks are required to undertake volunteer service projects for the community. But it is those kind and generous acts which happen a thousand times each day and go unnoticed and unheralded that define Scouting’s ideal of service.

“To keep myself physically strong…” A Scout knows he needs to be strong. A life of service to others requires the capacity for great effort. That means being fit enough to fulfill that kind of tasking.

“…mentally awake…” A Scout is always aware of the world around him. He doesn’t waste time brooding over his own misfortunes, but takes notice of the needs of others and moves to assist when necessary. He abhors drugs because he knows they will destroy him. He makes his life full and exciting enough to not need chemical stimulation.

“…and morally straight.” There is no greater challenge for anyone than to commit to a set of moral and ethical standards, uphold them to others, and live life by them. A Scout knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses to do right, not because it is easy or popular, but because it is right.

A Scout will always “Be Prepared.” He will not stand idly by when something needs to be done. He is not a spectator, but a participant in life.

The list is daunting. Nevertheless, a Scout embraces this structure because he knows his life will be better because of that choice.

It is a life that promises to be shaped in honor and courage.

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