Friday, October 14, 2011

A Scout Is Cheerful

One of the first songs I learned when I worked on the staff at Camp Loll as a youth was Stay On the Sunny Side, a goofy ditty that employs a series of knock-knock jokes between rousing renditions of the chorus. We sang it often and with gusto. Despite its silliness, the song makes a useful point about cheerfulness. Everything in life is better when you maintain a cheerful attitude.

I once read an article about a series of studies that delved into optimism and pessimism. Pessimists tend to be right more often, the article stated, while optimists tend to be more successful, happier, and longer lived. But the article went on to make a very important point. Pessimists are accurate more often in part because their gloom can become a self fulfilling prophecy.

When I joined the Order of the Arrow as a scout, I was intrigued by the organization's internal name: the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service. Members promise to "seek to preserve a cheerful spirit, even in the midst of irksome tasks and weighty responsibilities." This seems to run counter to a culture that encourages people to do whatever they want and to escape negative emotions through addictive substances and activities.

Mike was the first patrol leader I remember. He seemed to always be happy. He clearly felt passionate about certain pursuits. I enjoyed joining in some of these activities. (Less so when it came to his enthusiasm for entomology.) Despite his geekiness, Mike was always keen for adventure.

I wondered what made Mike tick. After all, my Mom will tell you that I grew up as the pouting champion of our family. I knew how to carry a dark cloud around with me. Over my years of scouting, I have repeatedly encountered people that have helped me understand the value of choosing to be happy and upbeat.

When I worked on Boy Scout camp staff, I was impressed by our waterfront director (and chaplain), Gordon Banz. Gordon seemed to always have a way of finding a silver lining in every situation. His cheerfulness was contagious.

The gloomy among us may be more accurate about some matters. But they aren't much fun to be around. People tend to naturally gravitate to the cheerful and away from the dour. Much can be accomplished with a cheerful attitude.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, "Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself. ... Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland's maxim's for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse."

Words to live by.

A scout is cheerful.

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