I had a call from a friend last night. She was in floods of tears. She had just got home from her weeklyvolunteering commitment as a Cub Scout Leader, working with 30 inquisitive,demanding and boisterous boys and girls. Last night, a parent of one of the children had arrived forty minutes lateto pick up her daughter. When myfriend, who had stayed behind to look after the increasingly tearful child, askedthe parent if everything was OK, she received a mouthful of abuse, which endedup with a humdinger of a parting shot as mother and child sped off in thefamily 4 X 4: “I pay the fees for my child come to Cubs; I pay you to do yourjob, not ask why I’m late.”
Now, of course, neither of us had any idea why the parentwas late. There could have been anynumber of very good reasons for her being delayed, irritable and stressed. But, in the heat of the moment, sheattacked the wrong person. My friend isn’t paid to be a Cub Leader. Like countless voluntary youth workersaround the UK, she gives of her time and talent freely because she enjoys doingso. It would have been unforgiveablefor the parent to treat a paid member of staff in the way that she did. So shouting at an unpaid volunteer is reallypretty low.
I can’t speak to that parent. I can’t tell her that my friend wasincredibly upset. I can’t tell herthat, despite this, she will have been bag packing at her local supermarketthis afternoon, in order to raise money to help pay for summer camp for some ofthe Pack’s less advantaged Cubs.
So, instead, I’m encouraging you to go and thank your localvolunteer youth leaders – and to share the following with any parents you knowwho might be tempted to take out their anxieties on them.
I found it on the 201st Islington Sea Scout Group’s
websitelate last night and I think it’s rather good.
Thank you for lending us your children.
We are not experts. We’re your next door neighbours. We’renot perfect; we are just parents like you.
We don’t have any more spare time or energy than you do; weall work full time and juggle our families and our schedules and try to keep itall together as best we can.
The only difference between us is that we believe in whatScouting has to offer. So much so, that we contribute our time, our miles, andour talents to help your children and our children grow in Scouting.
We complete authorisation forms, budgets, and registrations,and fill our homes with boxes of paperwork that you will never see.
We are required to take hours of training, as well as attendleaders’ meetings, so that we can meet our greatest challenge – providing avariety of programmes which meet the needs and interests of very individualboys and girls.
We try to involve parents who want us to understand thatthey don’t have the time to drive on outings or help at meetings. We rejoice atthe generosity of others.
Sometimes we find ourselves going in too many directions; werun out of steam. We have memory lapses. Communication lines break down. Timeslips by. But that doesn’t mean we don’t care.
So many evenings we spend on the phone, seeking advice andsupport from other leaders when disappointments or problems occur. “How doI keep my child’s attention?” “What are your ideas for the ceremony?””How do you work with youngsters in four different sections?”
Our dining room tables are covered with bits of rope, menus, tourpermits, and merit badge cards for each and every youngster in the group. Acouple of them won’t show up, and don’t think to call and let us know.Sometimes we feel unappreciated.
Yet, these youngsters can fill us with pride at theirdetermination and accomplishments. Their smiles light up a room; and when theysay “Thank You” it makes it all worth it.
We help these youngsters build relationships. Some strugglemore than others. Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly… is encouraged by theScout Oath and Law. And sometimes we too must learn these lessons over and overagain with the boys and girls. But we are willing to keep learning.
Please be patient if we appear distracted or frustrated oroverwhelmed at times. Forgive us if we are not the kind of Scout Leader youwould be if you had the time. Instead, provide us with encouragement or offeryour help. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
We are, after all, only mentors…role models…leaders.Volunteers who have taken an oath to give these boys and girls, youryoungsters, the most precious gift we have to offer- the gift of time.
With best wishes
Your child’s Cub Scout Leaders
PS We also get a bit upset when you turn up late after a meeting on a Friday night and shout at us…