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.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments specific to the subject at hand. Requests for additional topics can be emailed to