What was that saying? “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”*
We all navigate our way through life using feelings to guide us. Something ‘feels’ right, or it doesn’t. An event is eagerly anticipated because we recall how we felt last time it took place. We bank fond memories and whilst the intricate details may fade over time, the feeling sits in the repository of our mind and triggers positivity.
Theirishscouter returned to Ireland in July, after several years abroad most recently at the other end of the world. The return, whilst unscheduled has afforded an opportunity to become more active in local scouting, the lifeblood of and indeed the only real reason for scouting’s existence.
That return to active scouting has triggered lots of feelings. Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago, sitting in Kilmashogue forest, perched above Dublin City’s lights, opened the door to memories of countless earlier night time visits to the same place – the opening scene of many an evening’s hiking across the Dublin mountains.
My companions for the hike on this occasion a mix of colleagues – old friends, together with young people, some of whom were starting out on their first scouting experience in these strange times we all find ourselves in.
Last weekend I was in larch hill, my six year old son one of a gaggle of excited Beaver Scouts, drinking in the freedom of this magical place whilst I soaked up the feelings I get whenever I venture here – the venue for a hundred or more experiences, the scene of adventures and seminal moments stretching back to when I was that six year old, beside myself with excitement.
The scout den is sitting idle this year. We are lucky to have one. Inside it remains largely the same as when I left it seven years ago. It too is full of memories and the feelings of many, baked into the walls like a house that has seen generations of loving families live there, each leaving behind some positive thoughts for the protagonists in the next chapter.
It is comforting to see that, in a year that has turned the world upside down and in a period of time that has seen the Scout movement in Ireland weather storms that may yet prove too much for this one hundred and thirteen year old, the Scouting that takes place in local communities is the pilot light in the stove that flickers on in the midst of chill winds.
Beaver Scouts run through the Dolmen field, their laughter chiming with the ghostly echoes of thousands of other youngsters who ran through before them. The fire above the Haggard field warms their hands on a December day as it has warmed other hands and has likely been doing so since before anyone reading this article was born.
The trails that criss-cross Kilmashogue and Tibradden mountain are the same trails walked by scouts ten, twenty, fifty years ago. The spirit of those who get up and make things happen on their own time and without any pay, for young people in their community – other people’s children – helps create such deeply held and immensely positive feelings in the hearts and minds of so many children and teenagers all over the country. It is an immeasurable act of kindness and generosity.
Some do it for their own kids. Some were once a beaver scout (or a Cub Scout, Scout, Venturer Scout, Rover Scout) and can see the magic of Scouting and what it has the power to do. Some are simply paying forward what they themselves benefited from as a child. For most of us, its possibly a mix of all these things.
Wherever you sit on the matters afflicting Scouting in Ireland at present, it has been an exhausting time. It has been deeply demoralising for many. The chasm between ideas seems to almost mirror the depth of the political divide in the United States.
Theirishscouter back in Ireland in the summer despite plans to be elsewhere was confronted by an unexpected question. Does one put one’s own children into an entity where the differences between us are so seemingly irreconcilable? Why place your own offspring on a path you have already taken, when you know it ultimately leads to a quagmire? Is there a long term future?
I travelled North and consulted with a former Scouter who travelled a large part of that trail with me. She told me I had no right to deprive my children of the overwhelmingly positive experiences I had gained from being in the Scout movement. Offices and other trappings may become moribund, but Scouting in the community will remain strong and will continue to do great things for Ireland’s young people.
Of course, she was right. I probably knew that all along. Sometimes however, seeking a different perspective to your own can help. Perhaps over Christmas we should all try doing that.
Theirishscouter sat one afternoon back in 2012 with five people from Scouting. At first glance we had little if anything in common, barring our membership of the same entity. An hour later, having taken some time to listen, we all realised just how many values we shared and how similar our feeling were towards a whole host of things.
Social media is often wonderful. Like wearing a mask however, it can often filter out some of the nuance of communication, making statements balder. Try taking your mask off over the Christmas break – metaphorically of course. Reach out to a scouter with a completely different perspective to yours. Don’t just hear their views, LISTEN to them. Do it via zoom, or meet for a walk or a socially distant coffee.
If we all did this just once in the coming weeks, would it line Scouting up for a better 2021? It will hardly make things worse.
It’s no longer about us. It never really was. That was obvious to me in Larch hill last weekend. We all have more important things to be doing.
In twenty, thirty years-time when those excited six year olds gaze across the fields in Larch hill they once ran through. When those eleven year old scouts look through the trees of Kilmashogue, down into Dublin City a quarter of a century from now with their own group of scouts in toe. Will they have positive feelings of their time as Scouts? What will their verdict be on the scouters of 2020?
Yes, we provided the programme, but did we provide the leadership? Did we truly lead by example? We should all ask ourselves that question – over a mince pie.
Theirishscouter wishes you and yours the most magical of Christmas’s and a safe and positive 2021.
*Maya Angelou is the person quoted at the top of the article.