I have always like the way Ralph Voelker explains how BSA’s mission gets accomplished through specific methods for each program; whether in a crew, team, troop or pack, there are specific ways we get to the promise of character, citizenship and fitness.
He says these programs “have the same aims but they have a different methodology for making those aims come true.” “So ask yourself this question,” he poses, “Are we a program that does camping that happens to teach values or are we a values program that uses camping to deliver our mission to young people?”
Boy Scouting works toward three aims. One is growth in moral strength and character. Character can be defined as the collection of core values by an individual that leads to moral commitment and action, and encompasses a boy’s personal qualities, values, and outlook.
A second aim is participating citizenship. Used broadly, citizenship means the boy’s relationship to others. He comes to learn of his obligations to other people, to the society he lives in, and to the government that presides over that society.
A third aim of Boy Scouting is development of physical, mental, and emotional fitness. Fitness includes the body (well-tuned and healthy), the mind (able to think and solve problems), and the emotions (self-control, courage, and self-respect).
He uses a mailbox as a metaphor for a child’s mind. That mailbox, he says, “is closed a lot. We try to deliver things like character, citizenship, service to others, faith, physical fitness, and loyalty, but the delivery just won’t go in. So a good Scouting leader has meetings, activities and outdoor programs so that there will be times that that mailbox opens, or that child’s mind opens, and they can deliver that mail.”
He explains that while camping, a young patrol leader might learn that yelling isn’t going to be the way to get dishes washed any faster. However, this is a time the “mailbox” is open so that Scoutmaster can sit down and have a counseling session with that young leader, opening his mind to deliver mail.
Ralph points out that it may only be open a moment, and if leaders try to put too much in, the “mind closes again. That’s why we have more than one camping trip or activity so they can find a way to open that child’s mind again.”
He explains how building a pinewood derby car with a parent is another way to open a boy’s mind. He says, “Over a period of time, there will be camping trips with campfires with all sorts of activities with things that go wrong like burnt pancakes and that’s when leaders looking for that opportunity to deliver the mail, do it.”
“You know'” he said, “it’s an amazing thing in Scouting, over a period of time, those Scoutmasters are out there putting mail into a young person’s mind…
but there’s a magic moment that happens when a Scoutmaster realizes they’ve delivered the mail. That that young person has so much mail inside their mailbox that their flag goes up. That Scout is ready to deliver the mail to another Scout.
“That’s what makes us a movement, so that when we have a child telling another child that is okay to be the good guy—that’s when we’ve made the dream of Scouting come true”