Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Friendly: adj.  Of, relating to, or befitting a friend: as a : showing kindly interest and goodwill.   b : not hostile c : cheerful; comforting

I went to a picnic on Sunday that was held at the home of some friends from Church.  It was a good old fashioned get together with good food in vast quantity, liquid refreshment to satisfy the child and the adult, music, games, swimming, and a plethora of friends of the type that you want to spend time with.  The motivation for this particular event was the celebration of thirty five years of service to our church by the Rev Michael Hintze and his wife Ann. 

With a cold Sam Adams in hand and my children and wife all off socializing I had the opportunity to observe the interaction of the guests.  It occurred to me that relating the details of this event would make a fine start and provide ongoing color in the fourth installment of my series on the twelve points of the Scout Law.

Within this crowd of a hundred or so people were men, women, and children, of wide and diverse backgrounds.  If you were to group them by material wealth they would be both diverse and representative of much of America with individuals and families on both sides of the spectrum and many in between.  More than seventy years separated the oldest from the youngest.  No one worried about the whereabouts of their children.  Some parents and young adults self appointed themselves as lifeguards and stood fast by that duty and responsibility.  No one complained they were “stuck by the pool, serving, or cleaning up” No one gossiped, or fought, or bragged.  They said grace with heads universally bowed.  The assembly was not comprised of teetotalers nor was anyone drunk.  Babies and youngsters were passed about allowing mothers a respite.  Everyone was friendly.

A Scout is friendly is the fourth point of the Scout Law. The word dates back to a period before the 9th century.  The word friend in Modern English is based on the Middle English frend and the Old English frēond.  Friend cognates, has a common origin, with the Old High German friunt , and the Gothic frijōn which means  to love.   Being a friend means loving.  I would point out to the younger, and maybe a few of the older readers of this essay that love or loving behavior does not truly manifest itself in a stolen peck on the cheek in a playground or a hurried intimate experience in the back seat of your father’s car.  One of the problems with modern society is our failure to use words in the manner by which they were intended.  This represented a challenge for me when I tried to resolve how I would expound on the definition of friend and what it means to be friendly.

In an age of “friending” even the most casual and peripheral of acquaintances in the ubiquitous social networking setting the act of being friendly has lost its true intent.  To really understand why friendly was considered a critical behavior worthy of inclusion into the Scout Law you need to understand how the word was used 100 years ago when the law was written.  Lord Robert Baden-Powell defined the fourth point thusly; 
A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other scout, no matter to what social class the other belongs.
Society in the British Empire in the early 20th century England was still very much structured by class.  Baden-Powell thought it critical that a scout must never be a snob.  He defined a snob as “one who looks down upon another because he is poorer, or who is poor and resents another because he is rich”.    Further he instructed scouts that they must “accept[s] the other man as he finds him, and make[s] the best of him”.  The theme is one of equality, not in position or stature but in treatment and interaction.  The mandate was not directed specifically at behavioral standards between Scouts but between Scouts and everyone with whom they came into contact.  Baden-Powell specifically addressed Scouts responsibility to strangers delivering the following charge;
“ If a scout meets another scout, even though a stranger to him, he must speak to him, and help him in any way that he can, either to carry out the duty he is then doing, or by giving him food, or, as far as possible, anything that he may be in want of.”
A scout is Friendly, a noble sentiment but hardly original.  Let’s take a step back about two thousand years.  12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  These verses are from the Gospel of John, Chapter 15, again not a new concept.  Earlier in his ministry Christ both referenced and summed up the Ten Commandments when a local religious leader tried to throw him a curve ball. 
28And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12)
Only God could paraphrase God so succinctly.   Verse thirty sums up the first three commandments, verse thirty one the remaining seven.  All are based on love, love of God and love of one another.  Baden-Powell recognized this and with his firm grasp of the English language incorporated friendly into the Scout Law.  For those that may doubt that this was Baden-Powell’s intention or questions the corollary I offer up one final quote Baden-Powell from a pamphlet he authored in 1917. “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity”

Hoping that I have successfully argued the definition of friendly I will take the liberty of expounding on intimacy of its impact.  First and foremost, for the Face book generation, being my “friend” does not necessarily mean you are my friend but it does ensure that I will treat you in a friendly manner.  Are you confused?  Not to worry, I often am I and I am authoring this essay.  You know the old adage that talking to yourself is ok as long as you don’t expect or get an answer.  That adage apparently does not apply to me.   I often take two sides in a discussion with myself when I am trying to work out a particular problem.  One of these recent discussions centered on placing myself in mortal danger in order to save another person.  I am convinced that I would “take a bullet” for my wife and children, a bit less certain when it comes to another family member and even less so for a friend.  Of course this internal argument is situational and in the end my actions would not be instinctive rather they would be the product of who I have grown to be as an individual and my perception of the immediacy of the mortal threat.  

For many years I served as a soldier, firefighter, urban search and rescue specialist, rescue diver, hazardous materials response technician and emergency response team member.  I have been in situations which were in retrospect both life threatening and a direct response to the endangerment of both friends and strangers.  These situations lend themselves to reactionary behavior.  Instinctive behavior is to seek safety.  In any of these jobs you train constantly to respond quickly and appropriately.  But this is different than taking action when one has time for thoughtful consideration.  The life of Christ, as always, provides the best example.  When approached by the soldiers and mob in Gethsemane, Christ stepped forward even though he knew the result was his crucifixion.  He had a choice; his disciples were ready to resort to bloodshed to get him away.  He also had all night to dwell on the prospect, the anguish of which caused him to sweat blood.  

I am most certainly not as Christ like as I should I be.  I have, on behalf of complete strangers, put myself in a position where serious injury or death could have been the result.  This gives me reason for pause.  If I am willing to take risk or accept personal sacrifice on behalf of a stranger in extraordinary circumstances how far should I be willing to go in my behavior to “friends” in ordinary circumstances.  Baden-Powell laid out the behavior that would regulate the interaction between two boys with nothing more in common than being scouts.  Is this any different than the behavior that should be expected of me with regard to one of my “friends” on Facebook?  One could argue that some of my Facebook friends are more acquaintances than they are friends.  I wonder if the term “friends” was chosen to imply an intimacy that may not really exist in order to encourage people to share their information and grow the size of the network and its inherent value to the advertisers who drive the associated revenue.  Do you think this train of thought is pessimistic or pragmatic?  Frankly does it really matter?  When it comes to being friendly are we not simply referring to a behavior that should be both selfless and universal in its application?  

I started this essay relating the celebratory picnic for our Church Pastor.  The celebration was not so much one of thirty five years of service to his congregation but one recognizing the friendship he and his wife Ann willingly offered to the hundreds of people who have had the good fortune of stumbling into their pastoral ministry.   I mentioned in my opening that everyone was friendly.  This was not luck or the result of careful selection of the guests.  This was learned and adopted behavior reinforced by the cornerstone that is Mike and Ann Hintze.   Theirs is neither a feigned affection nor the result of an assumed persona required by position or title.  Theirs is an honesty born of an easy and comfortable acceptance of the command to “love one another as I have loved you” and their wholehearted willingness to carry it out in a most literal sense.   Their lives and their example are contagious, an immunization if you will against the worldly and selfish attitude that infects the human condition.  It is beholden on us who are fortunate to be influenced by such people to let this spirit grow within us and not be shy in its cultivation or demonstration.  It costs billions of dollars to eradicate a disease like smallpox or force one like polio into submission.  Friendly is free, its implementation easy and painless if undertaken with a selfless spirit.  Accept the charge to be friendly with all of the underlying meanings.  It will not change the world overnight but it will certainly change you.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Helpful: adj.  Of service or assistance: useful

A Scout is helpful is the third point of the Scout Law.  The word is reputed to have first been used in the 14th century

The Liberty Mutual® Insurance Company ran a series of commercials as part of one of its marketing campaigns called “A helping hand is contagious”.  If you have not had the opportunity to see these commercials on television take a few minutes to view them on Your Tube at this link:     

This commercial series by Liberty Mutual ® has the tag line “When its people doing the right thing, they call it responsible.  When it’s an insurance company, they call it Liberty Mutual. Responsibility -what’s your policy.”    The series received such a overwhelmingly positive responsive the company launched a website called “The Responsibility Project”.  You can check out that web site at   

Watching a commercial like this tends to give me that warm a fuzzy feeling as my faith in humanity, especially in America, is restored for the brief moment before I remember it is a commercial.  A quick look at the “Responsibility Project” web site brings me right back to reality with topics like forced sterilization, animal abuse, and the return of adopted children.  Frankly the site is rather gutsy for a publicly traded corporation, or any large company for that matter.  If you Google® the phrase “Liberty Mutual Slogan” after the ubiquitous Wikipedia® entry, the next ten hits are sites focusing on the negative aspects of the insurance company and their failure to live up to their own add campaign.  A Google® of the words “liberty mutual” will give you about a fifty/fifty split between complaints and accolades. 

Personally, to date, I am a Liberty Mutual fan.  This position is based entirely on the personal, detailed, and caring service I get from my agent.  For example when my daughter with her newly minted driver’s license went off the road he actually beat me to the scene!  Fortunately for her and my insurance premium the “accident” was written up by the police as “no fault” and there was no damage to the car or the occupants.
Although the original Boy Scout law was phrased somewhat differently than the modern version, Robert Baden Powell still covered “helpful” our third point.  

A Scouts duty is to be useful and to help others. And he is to do his duty before anything else, even though he gives up his own pleasure, or comfort, or safety to do it. When in difficulty to know which of two things to do, he must ask himself, "Which is my duty?" that is, "Which is best for other people?"---and do that one. He must Be Prepared at any time to save life, or to help injured persons. And he must do a good turn to somebody every day.

I have six children, all of whom live at home.  Living right next door are another six nieces and nephews.  I also happen to have started a small sustenance homestead farm last year which has grown to encompass an organic garden, some fruit trees and almost 150 assorted poultry.  Many of the children and teens are supposed to have responsibilities with regards to the care and upkeep of this operation and they all know it.  One of my favorite object lessons is to go outside to work “on the farm” making sure everyone knows I am heading out but without directly asking for any help. Then I wait to see if anyone shows up to assist me.  Think of it as a pop quiz for life.  Let’s just say that no one in my household has an A average and my loving nieces and nephews are looking at summer school.  You might ask yourself, is this test rigged.  Sure it is if you consider my “free time” is on nights and weekends. My hope for help with “chores” occurs when I am competing with television, video games, friends of the opposite gender etc.   Failure to “pass the test” does not result in complete escape from responsibility.  I just want to see how the kids are progressing in the development of their sense of responsibility.  In my house chores are NOT optional.  Other households have their own rules.  

According to the American Time Use Survey Summary for 2012  83% of women and 65% of men spend a portion of their day on household activities [chores].  Women average 2.6 hours and men 2.1.  Our leisure activity takes up twice that amount of time with activities like watching television, socializing, and exercising [really?] taking up 5.8 hours of a man’s day and 5.2 hours of a woman’s.  The biggest chunk of leisure activity being enjoyed is television at 2.8 hours per day.  (US Dept of Labor, 2012)

How many parents require that their children clean their rooms, pick up their dirty clothes, put their dirty dishes in the sink, and hang up their wet towels?  How many just do these things for their children because they believe that children should not be forced to have chores or that is causes to much confrontation in the home to require them.  The four previously mentioned chores provide the most common chore related household tensions according to a Arizona State University study.  As it turns out only 12% of household chores are done by kids between the ages of 6 and 18, this according to “Parent Further” a search institute resource for families.  

I do not buy the argument that it causes to much tension in the household to enforce a shores policy.  For me this falls under the “Honor thy Father and Mother” commandment written b y a father far more knowledgeable then myself.   Another common excuse for not enforcing chores include Chores take away from homework, schoolwork is a priority.  I only buy that argument if your child is not one of the majority of American children spending more than twenty eight hours of week in front of the television.  This figure does not include all of the other media distractions which add up to a whopping 53 hours per week according to the Nielsen market research company.  Of course the popular reasoning, it’s easier to do this myself, or, I have to do it myself to ensure that it is done correctly may be your poison of choice.  I would humbly suggest that you take the time to both teach the “proper” method while opening up to novel and sometimes creative idea’s presented by your children.  They do have flashes of brilliance you know.  The alternative is to sculpt an irresponsible child into an irresponsible adult.  People do not “grow” out of bad habits.  

Americans are by in large part helpful by nature.  When disaster strikes we are at our best helping our neighbors, or are we?  As a nation we contributed 2.8 billion dollars in the wake of 9-11 according to the Center for civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University.  I have heard many stories of the truckloads of donations that arrived at ground zero from friends and colleagues who were part of the response.  Blankets, sweat shirts, cigarettes, and tractor trailer after tractor trailer of everything to include diapers!  Many of these truckloads were turned back or redistributed to other charities.  My point is that the donations reflected our need to feel good about ourselves as much as they reflected our altruism.  They did not in large part represent the willingness to surrender comfort, pleasure or even safety.  That sacrifice, real help, was that offered by the first responders who responded and died on 9-11 as well as those who risked life and limb on the pile in the aftermath.  

As a country we have not been asked to really help since World War II.  Even though we have been at war for nearly ten years the average American has not been asked, or required to help.  We have not draft, again we are served by a small minority of truly helpful men and women.  We have no need for rationing of food, fuel, clothing material, anything at all.  We live in a world focused on “me”, how “I” feel; instant gratification, instant information, and few commitments.  The modern world has given birth to “supersizing”, “friends with benefits”, “instant messaging”, “reality TV”, and “family planning” none of which is helpful by any stretch of the imagination.

Robert Baden Powell instructed a Scout to “Do a good turn to someone every day”.  The Liberty Mutual® commercial illustrates how a good turn can snowball.  But good turns are not the foundation of being “helpful”.  We need to take another look at ourselves, our communities, and our society and ask the question; “am I truly being of service”.  We really do have a duty to our fellow man, a message that has been increasingly lost over the last few decades.  The attitude that the government is responsible for everything is a byproduct of this loss of message.  If it comes out of my paycheck before I get it I really won’t miss it is the growing convention.   With some it is a blind eye or plain ignorance to the fact that Government money comes from your pocket.    Walking in this fog is far easier to deal with than giving up a vacation with the family so that you can write a check to help someone who is really in need. 

Ask yourself; is the help I am willing to give meaningful to the recipient or is it just meaningful to me?  The answer may surprise you.