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Blog | 03 January 2020

Finding our path through the woods – reflecting on resilience

Tony Malone, Explorer Scout Leader
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Explorer Scout Leader Tony Malone reflects on the meaning of resilience, and why, when we face setbacks, it’s okay not to feel okay.

We’ve recently been focusing on resilience as a key skills for life – that ability to try to overcome setbacks and get through tough times. But as part of that, we need to acknowledge that everyone has their own responses to different situations, different tolerances, and indeed, different interpretations of the word ‘resilience’.

Some challenges may take a long time to recover from – and sometimes, we never fully recover. But in Scouts, we’re not afraid to say ‘that’s okay.’ Two of our great Scouts values are care and integrity: we’re there to support each other. It’s a fundamental part of Scouts.

Looking at the world through different eyes

One way I like to explain how we approach things as Scouts, especially to younger members, is through the stories of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. Of course, these are funny and enjoyable, but they also carry a valuable message. Think about Christopher Robin and his friends – each has their own quirks, but this doesn’t stop them enjoying their adventures together. Just take a look at this passage, which I’ve paraphrased:

‘Christopher Robin took one of his favourite friends from the shelf, Tigger. They bounced off on an adventure excited about the day ahead. They met Piglet as they went, who was anxious and nervous but still brave and eager about the adventure. Eventually they met Pooh and Eeyore, their bouncing adventure pace now slowing to a gentle walk along the path their adventure has taken them. They saw their other friends along this walk, such as the nurturing Kanga and the wise but irritable Owl, waving hello and passing them by.’

We use the stories of Winnie the Pooh in our Beaver section to frame how we do things in Scouts. Christopher Robin’s adventures are so much like the great adventures we experience together. But these stories also teach us that within the things we do as Scouts, there’s always a deeper meaning.

Coming to terms with emotions and life experiences

Christopher Robin’s stories could easily be framed as one of a young person coming to terms with their own mental health and wellbeing. His adventures with Tigger are exciting, active, and sometimes unintentionally insensitive of others. Meanwhile, with Eeyore there is often sadness and loneliness, but still hope and beauty. The stories of Christopher Robin tell us how young people pick up emotions, come to terms with them, frame their adventures or life experiences with them, and then – in some cases – place them back on the shelf. In some cases, they might carry certain emotions – the sadness of Eeyore, or the curiosity of Pooh – for the rest of their lives.

Life is never a straight line. It’s never a linear progression back to ‘good’ well-being. Rather, it’s a winding woodland path, visiting all areas of the human experiences from joy, kindness and happiness, through to crisis, and sadness.

In Scouts, we’re all hiking though these woods – both adults and young people. When we’re hungry or lost, sometimes the adults lead the way, and sometimes the young people lead the way. All people hike these paths but the difference is in Scouts we hike them together, with support and without judgement.

Shaping how we see each day 

Activities in Scouts that develop empathy, skills for life, adventure, inclusion and more take many forms: a hike is one, but it could equally be sailing, a camp or a hackathon. It doesn’t matter where our activities take place; we all have one or more of Christopher Robin’s friends with us, that invisible friend who shapes how we see the day.

Writing this, I have Piglet and Owl here now. ‘Write wisely and be friendly’, they might say. They’d probably also worry, ‘But what if people don’t like this? What if I fail to make sense?’ I hope by listening to these two friends, and knowing when to reassure them, I can reach a good place. Life is an adventure, and Scouts is a key to enjoying and understanding it.

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