Happy Valentine’s Day to Louise

Scouts, back when I was in fifth and sixth grade, we had a Valentine Day tradition that I know many other schools had as well. Each member of the class would decorate a grocery sack, with hearts and cupids and gushy Valentine Day stuff, and we would each put our name on the sack we designed. The teacher would line up all the tables on one side of the room and the sacks would be lined up on the table. When Valentines Day came, we would all bring Valentines for other kids and we would find their sack and drop the card in their sack.

It was fun to go home and open up all the cards and see who sent you a Valentine.

But what if your sack was empty? What if nobody in the class sent you a Valentine Card? How would you feel? Well, there was a girl in my class named Louise that didn’t get any cards. Everyone got a card from her but they didn’t send her one in return. She was never asked to any of the class parties and sometimes the kids made fun of her behind her back. She might have been a nice person but I don’t know that because I never took the time to find out. She came to school alone, she ate alone, she studied alone and she went home alone. I never saw her with any friends at all. And I just joined the other kids in laughing and making fun of her. I never even considered how she might have felt.

And you know what? I was a scout back then just like you. I stood up every Monday night and I said the Scout and the Scout Law just like I meant it. I said the words “A Scout is Kind”, and then I went to school the next day and wasn’t kind. How could I do that? How could I say something on Monday, and then conveniently forget that I had said it on Tuesday? That is simply not the way the Scout Oath and Law is supposed to work. Those values are supposed to be in our hearts when we are not in uniform just like they are in our hearts on scout meeting night.

Scouts, you all know somebody who needs a friend. You all know somebody who is on the outside looking in and hoping that someone will take the time to be friendly to them. You all know somebody who could use a kind word and a smile. That’s what makes us human. And that’s what makes us scouts.

“A Scout is Kind” and “A Scout is Friendly” are not just words out of a book that we recite just so we can get a patch on our shirt. Is it alright to forget about being compassionate when you don’t get an award for it? Of course not.

Remember Scouts. Someday you may need a friend. Someday you may need kindness. Someday you may need compassion from others. You need to learn how to give it. Be kind! Be friendly! Be compassionate! That’s what Scouts are. And not just on scout meeting night.

“Louise. Where ever you are. I hope your life is filled with family and friends who love you and appreciate you. I hope that your sack is filled with Valentines. I wish I knew where you were so that I could send one to you and tell you that I’m sorry. You never did anything bad to anyone. You deserved to have people treat you with respect. We didn’t and I’m ashamed of myself. Louise, Happy Valentine’s Day, fifty years too late.”

© Bill Shaffer 2005