The book The Scoutmaster Minute: Your Handbook for Inspiring Moments by Ron Wendel is subtitled “Your handbook for inspiring moments”. The first thing you notice is that the subtitle seems pretty accurate. It’s a tiny book size that easily fits into a pants pocket. The 128 pages are filled with 155 short stories, poems, and historical references that can be delivered to boys by the Scoutmaster during his allowed 60 seconds at the end of a troop meeting. Most won’t require a full minute to relay and that should make any Scoutmaster using this reference more popular with his troop. No one said you had to use the whole time, dear leader.
The organization of the book is by Scout Law. The first part is character encompassing trustworthy and loyal. The next is mind: obedient and cheerful. Body covers thrifty and clean. Spirit relates to brave and reverent. The final section handles the laws helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind. I wouldn’t recommend trying to read the whole thing from front to back unless you like to pick it up at your odd free moment. There are a lot of great anecdotes, but I found trying to go from front to back without a story is difficult. Besides, there are things you read and then want to stop and think about for a bit. Reading that a 99.9% success rate would have 50 newborn babies dropped every day does make you think about whether good enough really is good enough.
All of the last three Scoutmasters for my troop directly referenced the Scout Law in their Scoutmaster Minutes quite frequently. This makes the organization very natural to most users. Parents, also, will find the book a handy reference if they are reinforcing the Scout Law in their family code of conduct. I imagine that this is also a convenient source for counselors and leaders of all sorts in Boy Scouts: Assistant Scoutmasters lending a story to the campfire, camp counselors trying to find an engaging way to make a point, and troop committee members trying to remind each other why they are giving up a little more than the fabled hour a week.
Ron Wendel’s favorite source of stories and poems seems to be the 18th and 19th centuries, especially American forefathers, but he has references from Shakespeare and the modern biography of Pat Tillman, as well. I’ll have to admit that I’m not a big fan of poems for teachable moments because by nature they seem to be open to interpretation. Frank Crane’s “Help Wanted” list is one of those trying to show the ideal boy, but is a little confusing in the attempt. Another mild criticism is that the copy I had from Gibbs Smith, the publisher, had a few pages with smudged print. If you’re a stickler for perfection this detail will annoy you, but if you’re using this as a pocket guide as appears to be the intention, your copy should be well worn and smudged from frequent use anyway.
The list price for this book is $7.99. Internet distributors have used copies available for less and there is even a version for the Kindle. That electronic library is unfortunately on my perpetual Christmas list so I’ll stick with paper, but if you’ve got one of those nifty devices the cost is less than the cover price. You probably won’t want to stick it in your back pocket at that point, though. An interesting bit of trivia for me is that this publisher is the same one from whom I purchased “101 Things to do with Ramen Noodles”. If you’ve ever been on a campout with my troop, you’d understand why I had to give it to my son.
If you like the concept of parables and historical references to inspire and teach you’ll love The Scoutmaster Minute. If you hate trying to find a website for your Scoutmaster Minute as you’re running out the door to the meeting you’ll find this pocket guide very convenient. If you know that giving an inspirational closing is important, but you doubt your ability to pen a stirring speech, let Ron Wendel do it for you.
Joshua Godinez is a guest contributor on Scouting News. He can be found on his site, BoyandGirlScouts.com, with the tagline – “Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts under one roof… with proper supervision, of course.”