Scouts, One of the parts of the Boy Scout Oath that should be very important to us is the part that says “to help other people at all times.” I contend that it is nearly impossible to help other people at all times unless you are able to look out and see when people “need” help. We live in a very self centered world. People are looking towards themselves. What can I get? Did I make the first team? Will I be a starter? Did I get the part? When the focus is on ourselves, can we really notice when others need our help?Tonight’s Scoutmaster’s Minute is bout a very important word. Empathy. What exactly is that? The Native Americans have a saying that applies here. “You never truly understand another person unless you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” That is a very good description of what empathy is. Feeling what another feels. Understanding another person’s actions by putting yourself in that person’s place.
I got an E-mail the other day. It was from a person that sends me pretty smarmy (I’m not sure that’s a word), Hallmark Card kinds of E-mails that usually end with something like “If you pass this on to ten other people within the next five minutes, the sun will come up in your life and you will receive an unexpected gift.” The E-mails from this person are usually sickeningly sweet and unrealistic, but for some reason I opened this one up and the message in it was perfect for what I am trying to get across to you this evening. I really enjoyed this message and wish I knew who wrote it. I’d like to give them the credit they deserve for this wonderful story. I’d like to tell it to you tonight. Here goes!There was a farmer who had some puppies and he wanted to put them up for sale. He made a sign and placed it on the gate to his farm. Later, he was out working in his garden and he noticed a little boy holding on to the gate and looking through the fence. The farmer went over to say hello and the little boy said “Mr. I’d like to buy one of your puppies.”
The boy dug in his pants pocket and came up with some change. “See, I have thirty-nine cents.” “I’m sorry”, said the farmer, “but these puppies are a little more expensive than that. I don’t think you have enough money to buy one.” “Well, will thirty-nine cents at least give me a look at them?” “Sure” said the farmer. He whistled and the mother dog came bounding out of the barn followed by four of the cutest little puppies the boy had ever seen. They were jumping and running and trying to keep up with their mother as they bounded towards the gate.But then something caught the boy’s eye. There was unexpected movement in the door of the barn. It was a fifth puppy. He was moving slowly, one leg shorter than the others, and was stumbling and falling down as he tried to join his brothers at the gate.
“That’s the puppy I want”, said the boy. “Son”, said the farmer. “You don’t want that one. He can’t run and he can’t play like the others. One of the others would be a better choice” The little boy bent over and pulled up the leg of his pants, revealing a brace that ran from his hip all the way down to his ankle.”Oh, that’s OK. See, I can’t run and play either. And that puppy will need somebody…… who understands.”
Scouts, that’s what empathy is. It’s somebody who understands. My message for you tonight is to look at others and try to understand how they feel. Notice when they are hurting. Notice when they need a helping hand. Notice when they need a friend. That is being a good scout. Scouting has to be more than a badge on your shirt or a sash on your shoulder. Scouting has to be about what’s in your heart as well. Remember, “to help other people at all times” is part of who we are.
© Bill Shaffer 2007