Exploring our Faith Vol. I - Scouting Oaths Part VI – “to help other people at all times”


There seems to be two ways to live one’s life. The first way is to see life as a competition in which there are only winners and there are losers. If this is the way you view life then the challenge is to get as much as possible and avoid suffering at all costs. The second way is to see life as a journey in which everyone are fellow travelers and it is essential to help the other travelers because eventually sometime down the road you will need their help.   Both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts proudly proclaim through their oaths that they believe the second way of life is the true way of life even if it seems like a paradox. This proclamation takes place not only in word but in action as both scouting programs require young people to practice service in order to advance. While it might seem a little oxymoronic to require service, I believe there is a great wisdom in it because one has to perform service to truly understand the rewards that come from service. It is also important for a person to practice service because as one does so, he or she purifies her motives for doing service for no one person is 100% altruistic. I would like to share with you some different ways a person might perform service and I think it will become obvious that all services are not 100% altruistic there is a growth that takes place in the reflective person who performs service.
When I think about service my mind goes to a quote from Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. He was a Vietnamese bishop who spent many years in prison under communist control. This quote comes from his book: The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison: “There are many types of charity. There is the noisy type of charity, broadcasting good deeds; the banker’s charity that demands credit for everything done for another; the charity of the zookeeper that only involves food programs, the patronizing charity that looks down on those who receive it; the dictator’s charity that will only follow its opinion; the charity of the fraud that must exhibit what it accomplishes.”
Let us take a closer look at each of these types of service/charity. If we take a look at the broadcasting type of charity we know that this is a real temptation. How many times do we want to broadcast all our good deeds in order to receive credit and praise for it? There is also a part of us who are like bankers when it comes to our service where when we do something we expect someone to return the favor. Sometimes we are like zookeepers or high and mighty patronizing people who are not interested in thinking of the person we are helping as anything but a task to complete instead of a person who needs our respect. There are times when we can be like dictators who are only willing to help if people are willing to do things our way and there are even sometimes we can be frauds when it comes to our charity making it look like we are working hard when in fact we are only there to steal some of the credit. 
For Christians, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts there is still another mode of service. It is a mode in which the person doing the service does it selflessly for the sake of the other person because he or she knows that by helping another they are building up the community. This type of service is not natural for human beings but only comes with much practice of doing service. While as Christians we would say we are striving for salvation but as Scouts we could say we are trying to inspire young people to an excellence of character.