Today I was sitting in my living room, just hanging out with my housemate, when the subject of Scouting came up. This isn't much of a surprise as it's what brought us together and is the main thing that connects us - we are both leaders at the same group although she is a Cub leader and I am a Scout leader. But everytime we start to talk about Scouting itself I remember the fascination and obsession I have with it. I remember what drew me to it as an adult. It was the family, the knowledge (everyone knows what Scouting is and probably knows someone who attended at some point in their lives) and, most importantly, the potential.
I became a Scout leader because I truly believe that these children are the adults of our future. That may seem a really obvious statement. But what is included in that statement for me, is that it is my chance to have an impact, it is my responsiblity to teach these children that, although they may not go to the best schools or have anything worth mentioning, they have potential. They are special. They can achieve.
Needless to say, from this conversation of potential came the reverse subject, that of peer pressure and how it can undo any seeds that you have planted. But my flatmate told me a story that filled me with hope, of one of the Scouts at her previous group. There were two best friends; one had been to jail numerous times, the other escaped it simply by luck. Neither had much of an education and facing the adult world they were turning to crime. A few words from one of the leaders, to the second lad (in hearing of the first), gave him the courage to decide to change his life. Not only that, but when his friend challenged him, he had the guts to stand up for himself and say 'I don't want to be like you.' Soon after that, the lads enrolled in college and got themselves an education and found a decent way of living in the world. This just goes to show that peer pressure doesn't necessarily mean something bad - it can happen in reverse as well.
This story proved to me how profound an effect it can have on a young person's life, to have someone say 'I believe you can do it.' I know this won't always work, but I'm going to keep trying, in the hope that somewhere down the line, one of them might remember, appreciate and payback that belief. Just because someone is labelled a good for nothing, doesn't mean they can't change their lives.
This post has turned in a direction I wasn't quite expecting. I was originally planning to write a post about Scouting but looking back over it, it still earns that title as that what Scouting is about - believing that we can make a difference, and proving that an organisation, or someone placed within that organisation, can change lives for the better. That is what Scouting has enabled me to do - make lives better, including my own. I have seen first hand the potential these children have and am doing everything in my power to maximise it.