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THE VIEW FROM HERE: Who will pick up the slack?

Some of the best memories from my childhood in the town where I grew up were of the years I spent in Cubs and Scouts.

Several decades ago, Liverpool had a very active Cub and Scout organization led by two fine gentlemen named Wilf Young and Jim McCorry. Both legendary figures in the local Scouting movement, Mr. Young and Mr. McCorry were well respected by the young men they led and by their fellow leaders, who tapped into their many years of experience and knowledge which, combined, would have been considerable.

Not that I was pressured in any way by my peers, but I became a member at a time when joining such organizations was the thing to do. At that time, both the Cubs and Scouts had robust membership numbers and the organizations made outstanding contributions to our community.

Cubs and Scouts gave us young boys an opportunity to learn many interesting things and to participate in a list of fun activities that many of us may never have experienced if not for these organizations. Beyond that, joining such groups gave us a great opportunity to meet other boys our own age and, in some cases, to create friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

Over the years, thousands of boys passed through the local Cubs and Scouts organizations, gaining useful knowledge and experiences that would serve them well into their adulthood. We learned a great deal about civic responsibility, outdoor survival, sportsmanship, community involvement, volunteer engagement, respect for our elders and friendship among our peers.

These were valuable lessons that were important in our growth and development, and those who were involved in such organizations typically became better-informed citizens, with their volunteer interests often carrying over into other components such as school and extracurricular activities as well as the community in general. In short, most of the Cubs and Scouts became well-rounded individuals who learned to give back to their communities.

There is no easy way of knowing just how many young people would have been involved in these organizations over the decades, but it would be safe to say the numbers range in the thousands. At one time, communities such as Liverpool had several Cub and Scout groups, as did many of the surrounding communities and, overall, our towns and villages were the better because of them.

Likewise, thousands of girls and young women had been engaged in Brownies and Guides, so whatever that number is, let’s just say it would be a significant force of positive and constructive energy that would benefit any community.

Today, however, it is regrettable that these organizations have all but vanished from many of our rural communities and their absences have left a considerable void in our neighbourhoods, a vacuum that is difficult to fill. Although, we are fortunate that cadets, another fine organization for young people, is active in many areas.

But still, those vacancies left by other youth-oriented organizations will become more profound as the population continues to age and the needs continue to increase. Who will pick up the slack if our younger citizens aren’t prepared or aren’t well equipped to meet the challenges?

It poses a serious dilemma for our communities and it’s a problem that deserves a closer examination. However, when we consider the erosion of our smaller, rural communities, the demise of such organizations for our youth usually goes overlooked. But we neglect this issue at our own peril.

In recent years, the challenge of out-migration of young citizens from rural Nova Scotia has captured a great deal of attention, with the issue garnering lots of discussion. And for good reason. The loss of this younger generation has resulted in serious problems for our communities as it’s not only led to a contraction of our overall population, but has also created a substantial hole that is difficult to fill.

It’s a vicious circle. As the young generations stream to the western provinces in search of high-paying jobs in the oil fields, most usually take their families with them. In turn, as the remaining population ages and the numbers shrink, there is no one left to lead these organizations and more alarming is the fact that there are fewer children to join these valuable groups that have contributed so much to their communities in the past.

Liverpool is no different than many other communities throughout Nova Scotia. Today, young boys and girls do not have the privilege of becoming engaged in these great training groups simply because there are not sufficient numbers to maintain a viable membership and our communities are much poorer as a result.

Recently, there has been a rebirth of these organizations in some communities. For instance, a few weeks ago my ears perked up when I heard a radio advertisement announcing registration for Scouts in the Bridgewater area.

When I was told during a recent conversation that such organizations for boys and girls have outlived their usefulness because they are too antiqued with values and objectives that are from a by-gone era, I shuddered at the thought. This fellow argued that’s the reason there are no Cubs or Scouts in our town.

Of course, this comment came from a gentleman who, himself, never had the pleasure of participating in Cubs and Scouts, so I took his observation with a grain of salt. However, the more I pondered his musings, the more convinced I became that such organizations are just as relevant today as they were during my youth and perhaps even more so.

Considering that a good percentage of today’s youth are engaged in activities that keep them glued to some sort of electronic gadget for hours at a time, I would argue that taking part in Cubs and Scouts would actually be very beneficial to them.

However, if this man’s attitude was any indication of current standards then I would argue that we have a bigger problem then many of us realize. What could be considered antiquated about respecting and assisting one’s peers and community? What could be old-fashioned about respecting one’s self? What could be out dated about discovering how to take care of one self and learning how to survive in the elements? If these objectives are out-dated then God help us.

In truth, I would argue that Cubs and Scouts, and Brownies and Guides, are needed more today than ever before, or at least that’s the view from here.

Vernon Oickle writes The View From Here column, which appears weekly in the South Shore Breaker. He can be reached at vernon.l.oickle@Eastlink.ca

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