Thursday, October 27, 2011

To Keep Myself Physically Strong, Mentally Awake, and Morally Straight

At age 12 I hiked with my troop to Beula Lake in the Yellowstone back country. From the trail head the hike is less than three miles. The first quarter mile or so is uphill, but it's relatively level after that. Despite the hike's ease, I trailed behind the rest of the troop both on the way in and on the way out.

It's kind of funny, but I was never much interested in physical exercise as a kid. It wasn't until I worked on camp staff in my older teen years that I began to discover joy in hiking and backpacking. Yet I stuck with the scouting program for years as we repeatedly went hiking and camping.

One of the purposes of all of that hiking and all of the physical games we played was to help promote being physically strong and active. This is one of the elements of doing one's duty to self, the third part of the Scout Oath. I think it is worthwhile to note that duty to self comes only after duty to God and country, and duty to others.

While attending one scouting event my troop was presented with a challenge. A number of items were placed under a blanket. The blanket was lifted for just a few seconds, revealing the items. Then we had a minute to specify what and where each item was. The goal was to correctly observe as many items as possible.

This simple game is known as Kim's Game. Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting felt that this was a very useful game to play to teach young people to be mentally keen. Baden-Powell also used tracking and other activities to teach youth to be sharp observers. Part of the reason for this is that well trained young men had helped him during some of his military campaigns. But he felt that being keenly aware of surroundings could be useful in every setting.

One of my friends in my troop when I was a boy seemed uninterested in being clean, pure, and honest. The more I got to know him, the more I felt that he really only cared about himself. He had no problem with bending the truth, being cruel to others, or leaving others to clean up after him if it was to his immediate advantage.

I later had a friend who was, as they used to say, a straight shooter. He was without guile. He looked like a nerd, yet everyone loved him. He was as honest as the day is long and he was a genuinely good individual. But he could interact easily with just about anybody, even the kids from the 'parking lot' crew. No one questioned his moral rectitude. Nor did they try to dissuade him from it.

The first friend I mentioned liked scouting, but he wasn't too keen on living scouting principles. The second friend I mentioned was a scout. He didn't just attend meetings, he embodied what it means to be a scout. This is what I think of when I hear scouts repeat the term, "morally straight."

According to the Scout Oath, doing one's duty to self embodies working toward physical, mental, and moral health and well being. Proper care in these areas enables one to more fully accomplish the other promises made in the Scout Oath: to do one's duty to God and country, to obey the Scout Law, and to help other people at all times.

On my honor, I will do my best ... to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

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