Scoutmaster Musings - Courteous


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Scoutmaster Musings

Courteous
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along."

When someone sees a Scout in uniform, they visualize him helping a little old lady across a busy street. That is the essence of being courteous as well as helpful, cheerful, friendly, and kind. They are all tied together and that image is exactly what scouts should work towards.

Being courteous is being a gentleman. It is opening doors and holding them open for the next person. It is noticing that the bus you are on is filling up and you have a seat while a woman is standing. It is saying "Pardon me" when you bump into someone in a crowd. It is giving a firm handshake when you make the acquaintance of someone.

Courtesy often seems to be a thing of the past; something for old people or something out of old black and white movies. In our age of email, instant messaging, and online chats, courtesy becomes a more difficult behavior to learn and practice. And, make no mistake, it takes practice to become good at it. Courtesy requires personal interaction where the value of the other person can be demonstrated. After all, courtesy occurs out of respect for other people.

When we have respect for the other person, we show that respect through courtesy. We shake hands with men. We remover our hats to women. We stand and converse when someone approachs us and begins talking. We say Please and Thank you. All of these are ways in which we show that we respect the other person. All together, these are known as 'etiquette' - the proper way of behaving politely. Etiquette is how Scouts should manage their behaviors.

It is important that Scouts show courtesy to all people. Whether it is a cute, young girl or an old, stooped woman, a Scout treats her courteously. Whether a rich businessman or school janitor, the Scout greets him cheefully and sincerely.

And, that can be the challenge. Courtesy without an underlying respect and thoughtfulness is a lie. To be courteous requires us to first be caring; to be concerned with the people around us and on the lookout for their wellbeing. Many people, hoping to get ahead, will be very courteous and friendly to people above them in social standing, while at the same time treat lesser ranked people with disdain. We see this often in business where a salesman will be outgoing until he realizes there is no sale to be made and then turns his attention elsewhere. But, the same occurs daily in all social circles. A Scout needs to overcome this temptation and be sure he treats all people with equal respect and courtesy.

The next time you go to a restaurant with a group of friends, make an effort to listen to how many of them say a simple Please or Thank You to the waitress when she takes the order or brings food or water. My experience has been that I am often the only one, and I sincerely make an effort to do it. The first thing I do is read their nametag if they have one and then use their name from then on. I also look at their face and eyes while they are taking the other diners' orders just to get a feel for what they are like. I do this not in the hopes of better service, but so I remind myself that the person waiting on me is just as important as I am and deserving of my respect, courtesy, and appreciation.

One other courtesy exercise that might be enlightening is to have a patrol dinner. At summer camp last year, our troop ate in the dining hall rather than cooking our own meals for the first time in at least six years. Each patrol sat at a different table. I was appalled at how the scouts behaved at the tables! This summer, the month before camp, I will be hosting a series of patrol dinners. Scouts will be invited to eat and will be instructed on proper table manners and courtesy in general. Is that the Scoutmaster's job? Sure, my job is to train and let them lead - besides, it will be fun. At least the pudding might make all the way around the table this year. :-)

The Daily Good Turn is founded partially on courtesy. Helping the little old lady across the street is the epitome of Good Turns, but countless other opportunities are available when a Scout keeps his eyes open and his thoughts on helping others.

Finally, I want to point out that true courtesy is done cheerfully and sincerely. Someone may be trained to do all the correct actions, but without a heart that cares for others, they are hollow actions. Sincere courtesy raises the social level and rubs off on those around a courteous person. And, courtesy should begin at home where it may be the most difficult to demonstrate. Remembering to be polite to parents, brothers, and sisters can be a true challenge for a Scout, but one which he needs to overcome to become a man of strong character.
Posted: 22:54 01-10-2008 290
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