Some of you know that I am currently taking the Boy Scouts of America’s Wood Badge Leadership Course. A friend, who had been both military and State Department, (they used to send him places to make sure it was safe before they sent the Secretary of State,) told me that it was the best leadership program in the world. Others have told me that the military has modeled some of its leadership programs after Wood Badge.
One of the five principles of Wood Badge is: Leveraging Diversity Through Inclusiveness. I am happy to say that they use the original meaning of diversity—things that are diverse and different, not the modern meaning, where the word sometimes seems to apply only to a very small group of popular issues.
The below is an excerpt from something that I may be including in one of my Wood Badge projects. I though some of you might enjoy the sentiment.
It is very difficult to hold to what you believe, when all the world is telling you that you are wrong. It is easy to duck your head and go with the crowd and turn your back on the things that don’t fit in.
But we are not raising our Scouts to do the easy thing.
We want them to raise their heads with pride, regardless of the mockery of the world.
But this can be very difficult. I know, because I have been there: alone, at odds with everything around me, even the laws of nature themselves seemed to conspire against me—the cruel laughter, the mockery, the loneliness of standing up for something no one agrees with. You have…
…this is the point where I would normally say, You have no idea what it is like.
Only I think you do know. In fact, I think you’ve been here, too.
Maybe your reason for feeling excluded is different from mine, but you’ve been here. Maybe you’ve been the sole member of your religion among strangers; or you’ve been the only person around from your culture, or country. Maybe it was your skin color, or your accent, or your gender that has separated you from the crowd.
Maybe you’re a mother who hasn’t had a conversation with an adult in weeks; maybe your a child who does not know any other children. Maybe you’ve been the sole member of the military amidst the frivolity of civilians; or the sole civilian amidst the practical-minded military.
Maybe you have suffered with a disability amidst folks who are free to run and disport themselves; or you have been the only able-bodied person serving others who cannot fend for themselves. Maybe your family or your peers do not share your love for your hobbies; maybe they even actively disapprove of them. Maybe you’re a geek among muggles, or you’re a fan of sports surrounded by folks who talk about weird things such as hobbits and droids.
Maybe you are feeling excluded right now, because I didn’t mention the cause of your exclusion.
Our reasons for feeling adrift—lone in the universe—differ, but the experience remains the same. We’ve all felt it. It is part of what make us human.
Our job as leaders is to help our Scouts face these moments of exclusion, that might become walls keeping the rest of the world out, and turn them into planks with which to build a bridge that reaches between themselves and their fellows and, ultimately, onward toward all humanity.