Weekly Reflection – 21-28 June 2009

Posted on: Monday 22nd June 2009

Dib dib dib!

In Boston (Lincs., not Mass.) on Wednesday for the seven hundredth birthday of its Parish Church I recalled the last time I participated in a significant birthday there – 2007 – when Scouts from all over the region gathered to celebrate their organisation’s Centenary. I was neither a Scout nor a Cub due to an ideological split with my older brother, a Sixer, which made it quite impossible for me in good conscience to wear the woggle. At the time I rather congratulated myself on getting out of something which would, no doubt, have led to all kinds of humiliations, like camping, singing Kumbaya, and going on jamborees (etymological note: in the language of the Australian Aboriginal Pitjanajarra tribe jamboree means ‘feast of tree grubs’).

It was a mistake. When I was a Curate I was chastened to discover how much the Scouts contributed to the life of the town, and how much scouting contributed to the lives its members. Some of them came from backgrounds that were so deprived that without the Scouts they would have had few opportunities to go on holiday, or to learn to be good at something, or to acquire the self-confidence to make progress at school and college and so on. I thought of some of those children, and the adults who worked tirelessly as Scout Leaders, this week, when I saw in the news that a mobile phone company has withdrawn an advertisement caricaturing a Scout Leader as a dreary nerd. The slogan read: ‘you may be good with knots, you may be good with children, but no way do you have fifty friends in your phone’. It is not only the advertisement’s smug self-regard that seems to have irritated so many people (the company was deluged with complaints), it also seems not to have noticed the new Chief Scout, appointed only last month, is not some bespectacled baldy in long socks and sandals but the TV adventurer Bear Grylls, who even the most jaded ‘2 kool 4 skool’ teenager would long to have in their phone. Most irritating, however, is its sly dismissal of the kinds of values Scout Leaders are supposed to represent; values like commitment, service, and self-sacrifice, values which seem to me have more substance to them, and to offer more to the rest of us, than boasting about how many ‘friends’ you have in your phone.

Long socks and sandals, however….

Fr Richard Coles, Curate