As I said in my last post, it’s been a year since I was diagnosed with pancreas cancer. It was also a year ago this weekend, that I attended the first weekend of MY Wood Badge course. For those of you who do not remember, Wood Badge is a 6-day training program for Cub and Boy Scout leaders, to help develop skills to be the best leaders for their scouts. I commented last year, in several blog posts, that several of the staff had indicated that I was an inspiration to them (and how I felt, and still feel to a lesser extent, that what I am doing is not terribly inspirational).
It is now one year later and I am no longer a Wood Badge participant. Instead, I am a Wood Badge staffer and I have attended 4 staff development meetings to get ready for this weekend, and I am more excited now than I was when I was a participant (and NO! it’s not because last year I had just found out about the cancer and this year, I’m done with treatment — though, that IS a very, VERY good difference). I really have enjoyed my time on staff so far and I have been assured that I will like it even more once the participants arrive.
At any rate, a couple of weeks ago, the staff Scribe (the scout version of a secretary) asked me to write something for the “Gilwell Gazette” (the Wood Badge newsletter). When I asked for guidance, he told me that I could write anything I wanted that would inspire the staff. I am including below what I wrote for your edification.
I’m strange! I work on the top floor of a 10-story building, and every day as I get to work I have a conversation with myself about whether I will use the stairs or the elevator. Of course part of me wonders if I should just take the elevator because it will be easy, but then another part of me argues that I should take the stairs because it’s good exercise. I can honestly say, though, that over the last year I have walked the stairs probably 90% of the time. In the end, I usually realize that option that is good for me is not always the easiest option (of course, there is also the piece that I feel guilty when I do, in fact, take the elevator).
Part of our job as scout leaders is to inspire the young people we serve to grow, develop, and mature and perhaps to help them decide which options through life THEY want to take. To inspire or motivate someone into their own greatness is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Each and every scout has latent skills, talents, and ideas for which he has hopes and dreams. If we can be just a small part of helping him to see the possibilities and to move forward and break the barriers that will give these dreams life, we have caused the world to be a better place. But how can WE inspire each of these scouts?
Albert Einstein once said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” Thus, we can inspire our young people by serving as a model of appropriate behavior. Inadvertently, I guess, I have done that for the last year. You see, it was almost one year ago today that I found out I had pancreas cancer (indeed, I found out the Wednesday before I came to MY first Wood Badge weekend). People have commented that I have inspired them, in part, because despite getting this diagnosis, I have continued to live my life. I have dealt with my situation the only way I know how: taking each day one at a time; naming the problem; and having an open discussion with folks about how I am dealing with my illness.
People have told me that they were inspired because I didn’t hide from my cancer; I met my “challenge” full on rather than hiding from it. I have been not only willing to speak candidly about my diagnosis, but, more importantly, to continue to live my life to the fullest in spite of it. But why should that be inspirational? A friend of mine suggested that when people learned of my diagnosis and how I was dealing with it, they stopped to think how they would react in my situation.
Perhaps people were inspired because they were not sure they could continue to function if faced with the same challenges I have been. I believe, however, that people are wonderfully resilient. By and large, we all learn to deal with the challenges (large and small) we are dealt, each and every day. While we can guess how we might respond in situations such as mine, the reality is that we really do not know how we’ll react. What my friend was suggesting, and I have come to believe fully, is that we often surprise ourselves, responding to tragedy (or just simple challenges) with grace and dignity.
Our scouts face a myriad of challenges with school, friends, sports, band, dating, and so on. The challenges our young people face may not be as life-threatening as cancer, but to these scouts, they are just as serious. Sometimes the most important thing to help inspire or motivate someone to continue is a little encouragement, a friendly smile, or a vote of confidence from someone else. As scout leaders, we are uniquely placed to provide that encouragement. Other times what’s most important is to just lead by example.
I truly believe we can all help to inspire our scouts by living our lives as role models. Through our actions, we can show them that, sometimes, choosing the more difficult pathway is the best way to go. Paraphrasing the words of John Quincy Adams, If your actions inspire your scouts to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a truly a successful scout leader!