The Order of the Arrow (OA) is the national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. Its officers and voting members are under the age of 21. Each council of the Boy Scouts of America has an OA lodge; think of it as a troop that covers the entire council. In the case of our local council, the lodge covers 12 counties.
The OA’s centennial was in 2012. There was a national meeting held, and lodges were given a number of youth and adult slots that could attend. The youth leadership for our lodge decided almost two years in advance of the convention that they wanted to fill all the slots that were allotted and raise money to pay for a motor coach and driver to take the contingent to the meeting.
The goal was to raise enough money to cover travel expenses. The target was Scouters, preferably OA members. The device for them to raise the money was a special fundraising six-part patch set that would be sold one part at the time at OA lodge events leading up to the convention.
At the time, I was the lodge adviser, and the youth leadership came to me with the plan. They developed it on their own. I did not ever suggest it or anything like it. They were proactive in wanting to attend the convention and make it where the membership only had to pay the registration fee and not a travel fee. The only investment that lodge had to make was to purchase the patches to sell; the investment was paid back with the sales of the patches. When it comes to Scouting, I’ve always followed the words of President Harry S. Truman: “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” I pledged my support to the OA leadership, and the process began.
Scouting and the OA have so many assistants and advisers because Scouting is a safe place to test ideas. I’ve compared it to the minor league in baseball because we’re more interested in developing the player than we are the final score. So, whether or not the plan to raise the money for the convention would work was academic. None of us would know if it would work unless it was tried. The youth were gung-ho and knew it would work. And, it did.
All of the patches were sold. And, they were sold to Scouters, so there was no money outside the Scouting family that needed to be raised. Thanks to an adult volunteer who waived his fee for driving and secured the contract for the motor coach the OA’s expenses for the trip were lessened. All the slots were filled, and we had a great time at the convention. Leadership classes were taken by all the youth, and there were plenty of fun activities.
It wasn’t until months later at our lodge’s annual banquet where I was given a minute to address the lodge that I apologized to the youth. I would never let them know before, but I told them I wasn’t sure their plan would work. They proved me wrong, and I am happy for that. I had unfairly judged that the exuberance of youth was clouding their judgement. It reminded me of Gen. George S. Patton’s quote “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
Working with the OA, the adults have learned that the youth can do what they set their minds to do. While they have ideas of their own, they pay attention to those around them and pick up on the characteristics they want to keep.