However, while I see that Boy Scouts has helped develop my empathy and my planning ability, I know that I continue to struggle with my ability to frame concepts for a group. Servant leadership is not about asserting power, but about developing rightful authority. Rather than force a group to do the leader's bidding, a servant leader's role is to persuade people to follow the leader's path. However, it is not really the leader's path that he asks people to follow. On the contrary, because a servant leader listens to people, respects all members of the group, and considers short- and long-term consequences, the path that the servant leader proposes should be one that is best for the group. Of course, that path may not seem best to the group because of competing interests, short-term worldview, or the fact that every plan is going to have pluses and minuses for different groups. A servant leader's job is to show the group why a certain plan is the optimum one for a scenario. To do this, a servant leader must be able to adequately explain and define proposed actions to people, along with supporting reasons for those actions. I am not very good at putting my proposed thoughts into words. As a result, in my role as troop leader, I found that, on more than one occasion, our troop made a group decision that may not have been optimal, due to a lack of understanding about all of the possible alternatives. To grow as a leader, I need to be able to not only visualize solutions, but also adequately explain my thoughts to other people in the group.
Looking at my participation as an adult volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, I have to say that I have very mixed feelings about whether or not I would consider the relationship one of reciprocity. I think that any parent who has been involved in a volunteer organization for children is aware that a minority of the parents do a vast majority of the work. In that respect, there is no reciprocity. However, when I look at the broader picture and consider whether my efforts in service to the community have been beneficial, I have to answer that question affirmatively. I know that my involvement with Boy Scouts has benefitted my child, which, in and of itself, would provide incentive to continue my involvement. However, I also know that all of the children in the pack benefitted when I was the leader and from my continued involvement in outdoor activities and the Pinewood Derby. For example, one boy in our troop had a father who is deployed and a mom with a newborn. She was not able to help with his vehicle, and I stepped in to the adult helper role for that child. I made a meaningful difference to a child in need; to me, nothing could build community more than being there for a child, especially a child whose father is deployed. Not only did I help that child, but I also reinforced his father's notion that he was fighting for a country worthy of his protection. Therefore, on a personal level, I felt reciprocity from my volunteer activities with the troop.
In addition, I believe that the pack has felt reciprocity from the community. Our pack has helped clean park space, package and deliver meals on wheels, and other activities that make it a vital and contributing part of the community. As a result, the pack is treated well by the community. Local grocery stores allow us to sell coupon books in their entry ways, local businesses donate money and/or services to the troop, and different groups call on us for help. The Boy Scouts are well established in our area and receive almost universal support from the community. There are some issues with older Boy Scouts being treated like they are nerds for continued participation in the group, but their treatment from adults in the community and other service groups generally grows more respectful and more into a peer relationship as Boy Scouts age. As a result, I cannot really think of any ways to improve the Boy Scouts interaction with the community. Perhaps this relates to my problems with conceptualization, but I do not really see an area for improvement in our social relationships with other service organizations. The one area where I perceive an injustice is not really a social service issue.
I have heard estimates that 1 in 10 people are homosexual, and the Boy Scouts are vocally prejudiced against gays. The biggest issue is that Boy Scouts of America prohibits gay troop leaders, and, that much of their reason for doing so perpetuates the myth that gay males pose a threat to young boys. Homosexuality and pedophilia are not correlated, and it is disheartening to have a national organization seemingly perpetuate this stereotype. I do understand that many people think this is a way to protect young males from troop leaders who could be predatory; however, my understanding of pedophilia and child molesters is molestation is about power and control, and really has nothing to do with sexuality. In other words, a married, straight male is as likely to molest a child as a gay male. To suggest that gay males do not have valuable lessons to teach boys about becoming community leaders reduces a person to his or her sexuality. I understand that many religions believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, and I have no interest in changing a person's religious beliefs. However, those same religions view extramarital or premarital sex as a sin, think that divorce is a sin, but the Boy Scouts does not forbid divorced fathers or men who have had premarital sex or extramarital sex from being leaders. In fact, from a religious perspective, it would be impossible to find a troop leader that had never sinned, and it bothers me that the Boy Scouts of America take the approach that being homosexual is somehow more of a moral defect than other sins that are defined as equally negative in the holy texts of most religions.
Even more disturbing than the fact that the Boy Scouts refuse to allow gay troop leaders is the fact that the Boy Scouts also excludes young gay males. This seems absolutely ridiculous. Even if I were to take the approach that gay people are somehow morally lacking, how could excluding these boys from a group whose purpose is to build character and moral strength, be the right thing to do for those boys? For many gay teenagers, the depression and ostracization that they experience is so overwhelming that a large number of them contemplate suicide and think that life will never improve. In fact, there is a huge publicity campaign currently aimed at this very population to tell them that life will get better and offer them hope. Excluding them from a group that promotes so many strong and healthy things for young boys seems almost needlessly cruel. Moreover, the fact that they are excluded teaches the straight boys who are in Scouts that it is okay to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexuality. Instead of standing up for a homosexual boy who is being bullied, Scouts may feel like doing so would somehow betray the group morals or values that they are supposed to have as a Scout.
Despite my feelings that the Boy Scouts are perpetuating a social injustice, I have been very reluctant to speak out about my feelings. Furthermore, I have to say that I think I would be reluctant to discuss those feelings now. The fact that the Boy Scout's position towards homosexuals is fairly well publicized means that many parents who are involved in the troop have slightly homophobic attitudes. My child will be attending school with their children for the foreseeable future, and, honestly, I fear that if I speak up about the treatment of gays in the Boy Scouts that I am going to make my son a potential target for bullies. I think that fear helps explain why I think that the Boy Scout's position is so damaging, even to straight boys. While I would like to say that I have developed a way to address that injustice, I simply have not.
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