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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frpp6DjCaJU     

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 http://responsibility-project.libertymutual.com/#fbid=24mmI0OPvdz   

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.

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