Mike Walton (blackeagle)

Fortune Cookie
By: Posted On: 2020-01-30

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Stock image of fortune cookies...message below (purchased Shutterstock image)

"Anyone can memorize things, but the important thing is to understand it." -- Fortune cookie message

Before my emergent gallbladder surgery two months ago now, I would spend every Wednesday having "Chinese food" (actually, it is Cantonese food during the day at the restaurant within the Air Force Materiel Command headquarters building I work at; and it is an Asian food restaurant close to the hotel I reside within after work). In the process, I would receive a sugar "Chinese fortune cookie" with my meal.

It has always been fun to crack open the cookie and read, either aloud to others or to myself, the "fortune" afforded to me by eating the delicious, spicy, and sometimes tangy foods prepared for me personally or as part of a buffet. Since college, I would add "...in bed" to the end of whatever the fortune states. Sometimes it makes the "fortune" more fun to read. Other times, it does not make sense, and one moves onward after "reading."

The fortune above speaks to something I love to talk with Scouts and Scouters (adult Scouting leaders in the general sense) about -- the idea that the basics of Scouting aren't something to only say "during Scouting things." The "three and twelve" -- the three parts of the Scout Oath or Promise and the twelve points of the Scout Law -- are not words to memorize and then, lowering one's hand from the Sign of the Scout and sitting down or otherwise moving onward. They are words to actually, realistically, and as best as one can, incorporate into their lives as citizens and inhabitants of the planet Earth.

We in the Scouting program spend a great deal of time talking about the basics. We take kids as young as 6 or 7 and ask them to memorize and speak back the words to the Scout Oath and Law. During review meetings -- boards of review -- adults ask youth for what they think "being Brave" or "Courteous," or "Reverent" means. The youth speak back, recalling as much as they can from the words in a Handbook what those words mean. A lot of times, they cannot remember the exact words. Because not a whole lot of time is spent on the meaning and understanding behind those words or phrases, they move their heads back and forth or shrugged their shoulders.

"I don't know," while an honest answer many times wouldn't work during those interviews.

The truth is that we, as Scouting volunteers and professionals, spend very little time explaining each part of the Scouting ideals. It is only when people like me show up and explain in detail why it is important, do they understand and be able to internalize what each part of the Oath/Promise and every point of the Law applies to THEIR LIVES. Not just "to just say what the Promise is" or "what's the seventh point of the Scout Law is."

(The seventh point of the Law, if one starts with "Trustworthy," is "Obedient," BTW.)

Why is it important that Scouts and Scouters need to be Loyal, for instance. Loyal to whom or what or under which circumstances. Do we only show our loyalty when the nation's flag is displayed? Do we defend "one group" over another, and when do we "change sides"? Which is more important -- loyalty to one's firm, company, or organization; or to a person, movement or team? I'm a Chicago sports fan -- so why am I "rooting" for the Kansas City Chiefs to win in the Big Game?

See...those simple rules for the development of leadership, citizenship, character and personal fitness HAVE APPLICATION IN REAL LIFE. However, most of us don't "get it" until something like a Scout ceremony or event or activity is being held, and one has to be a "part of it" in some way.

Some thirty years ago, I wrote a series of essays demonstrating each point of the Scout Law (and adding one dealing with "consumption of food and knowledge"). I shared them with an email "daily Roundtable meeting, which NEVER ends," called Scouts-L. It was later collected and posted to a section of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc. (disclaimer: I currently serve as President of that voluntary effort and organization.). Each one of those Points I explained using my own life stories why it was important to be Clean or to be Kind, or why others discouraged me from being Trustworthy.

The purpose behind Scouting isn't just to "do fun things while enjoying and protecting the outdoors and our place in the Universe and assisting others when they need assistance." The idea of Scouting is to develop and share one's personal fitness and character while serving as a good citizen and leader. That is what we "teach" and "show."

The values of a firm -- whether it is a small or large corporation; a military organization or command; a medium or small company; a school, religious institution or a non-profit like Scouting -- is not what is written or attached to a wall or what is spoken by the leadership or even echoed by the employees every morning as part of their daily "huddle." It is what each person, a part of that group, takes to heart and echoes it in their daily interactions with others inside or outside the organization -- where it counts in the community.

An old Christian hymn, one of my personal favorites, is "You'll Know We're Christians by our Love."

Anyone can, with time, memorize a set of words and phrases. The kicker is, of course, being able to explain or demonstrate to someone else what those sets of words and phrases mean in real life -- to them.

And to YOU.

(P, S.: Don't forget to get a lottery ticket using the numbers on the other side of the fortune!! I do, which is another reason why I have Oriental food on Wednesdays...they don't call them "fortune cookies" for nothing, you know...*smiling*)



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