Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Scout Is Thrifty

"The problem is that you don't know the value of a dollar," my Dad complained. I had started a daily newspaper delivery route at age 11, so I had a source of income. What Dad didn't like was the fact that I tended to fritter away my earnings on stuff that seemed to have little value. I was, for example, a regular patron of the candy machines at school.

When I went to Boy Scout summer camp for the first time, I brought extra money to spend in the trading post. Frankly, they didn't have that much stuff in the trading post. I spent $5 (which was worth a lot more than $5 today) on an old army surplus wood frame for a backpack. What was I thinking? It hung around the house for years, but I never used it.

Having grown up in an era of plenty, it took a while for me to develop an understanding of the principle of thrift. Being thrifty involves far more than just monetary matters. One of the early lessons I learned as a scout was to avoid cutting trails. It causes erosion and other environmental problems. I also learned to pack out all trash and to leave places better than we found them.

What does this have to do with being thrifty? The Boy Scout Law says:
"A Scout works to pay his own way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property."
By the time I worked on Camp Loll Staff, I had become more thrifty. Another staffer and I used some of our limited free time to snorkel around the shallows of the lake hunting for lost fishing lures. (Yeah, that's a cold activity.) We would clean up the lures and sell them in the trading post for cheap.

One of the greatest examples of thrift I have ever seen in scouting was a man named Jed Stringham. Jed was in charge of all of the scout council's camp facilities. He would show up at Camp Loll and would work like crazy. I'm not sure I've ever seen a harder working person in my life. Jed was careful about spending the council's money. He was an expert at finding ways of getting things done with available resources.

I particularly like the fact that scouts are encouraged to pay their own way. They are not to be freeloaders. If everyone in society did their best to live by this principle, there would be far fewer that need or expect help. And those that did need help would find others offering it. Self responsibility is a necessary element of thrift.

A scout is thrifty.

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