Sunday, April 01, 2007

Is it worth it?

I am taking advantage of Kenna's open invitation to be a guest blogger. I have had the pleasure of meeting her in Boston the past two years. I won't get to Boston this year to run the marathon, so I will have to settle for posting on her blog. Not quite the same, but it is a rendezvous of sorts anyway.

This topic is inspired by a frequent reader / guest blogger of this very site: Sally

John StrainI was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout. My brother was too. My sister was a Blue Bird and a Campfire Girl. My dad was a scout master and my mother was a den mother for Cub Scouts and a leader for Blue Birds and Campfire Girls.

As a kid, I breezed through my scouting adventures oblivious to the hard work and sacrifice my father made. I am sure my brother and sister would say the same thing. Our parents were involved and it cost them time and effort.

With my family at the Grand Canyon
At the Grand Canyon wearing a Boy Scout T-shirt

If you have read Sally's writings about her Girl Scout leader adventures, you get a pretty good idea of what is involved. There are lots of meetings and trainings to attend, there are difficult people to work with, and there are issues that come up with your own child to workout. One does not always know "the answer" and there are loads of challenges, costs, and insecurities to handle.

From time to time, such leaders must ask themselves, "Is it worth it?"

Is it worth giving up weekday evenings and various weekends to be exposed to people you would rather avoid than do volunteer work with?

Is it worth being the "heavy" because it is the right thing to do and having all of the kids hate you?

Is it worth the certain occasional issues that come up trying to balance being a parent to your child and treating them like an equal in the group? You will be accused of playing favorites by some kids and their parents, and you will field protests from your own child that you aren't being fair to them.

I suppose each leader has to answer these questions. These are the things that don't appear in the leadership recruitment brochures.

When adults volunteer to help their children in a group, whether it is scouts or sports, they have a vision in their mind. They have an idealized, Norman Rockwell scene playing in their mind's eye. Then the reality of the setting slaps them awake, but by then it is too late to retreat.

I love the scene in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin was a baseball coach and he encouraged / made his son of about 8 or 9 play second base. Suddenly, the batter popped up a pitch and it was headed for his son. As the ball flew through the air awaiting the catch, the viewer was given a glimpse inside Steve Martin’s head. It was in the future and his son was receiving a college degree. The son was making a speech and he said, “I want to thank my Dad, for making me play second base.”

Back to reality, the ball came down in his son’s glove, but he couldn’t hold it. They lost the game and his son was the goat. Again, we were given a glimpse inside Steve Martin’s head. This time, it was an emergency scene. One heard gunshots and people were taking cover. “He’s in the tower,” someone said. Then the camera panned over and you heard someone “obviously the son” shouting from the tower, “You made me play second base.”

We imagine one thing but get another.

I can relate to this. I coached baseball and basketball. There were times I really did not want to go to the field or the gym on a Friday night or a Saturday morning or afternoon. It seemed such a sacrifice. My grass needed to be cut. My shed needed to be cleaned out. I had to pay my bills.

I always told myself, "Someday, you will want to see John play basketball and you won't be able to. This is temporary." I was right. John is 22 now. I don't have to go to anymore games. But you know what? My grass still needs to be cut, my shed still needs to be cleaned, and I still have bills to pay.

I know my parents both grew from their experience as leaders. To this day, they both spout words of wisdom taken straight from the leadership seminars or scout manuals. My mother would tell all of us at times things like, "Always finish what you begin." I think that is some sort of Blue Bird motto.

Scouting drilled good values into my head. We recited the scout pledge and the scout laws at each meeting. We took off our hats, placed our hand over our heart and said the pledge of allegiance at every meeting. We learned respect and patriotism.

It meant a lot to have my parents involved as leaders. I was proud of them and they provided another level of security that I enjoyed.

Now that I have grown up and had my shot at enjoying the sacrifice others made for me and making the sacrifice myself, I have no regrets. I think it was because my parents led by example that I felt a certain obligation to step up when it was my turn.

The value of volunteering is immeasurable. It pays dividends from now until the end of your days. I profited as a child experiencing scouts and enjoying the sacrifice my parents made. As an adult, my leadership ability was enhanced by my earlier experiences and I persevered because I had a good example from which to learn.

So is it all worth it? It was for me.

Until the next time
John Strain

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