Scout painting a fence

It’s not the arrival of red cups at Starbucks or endless Black Friday emails that does it.

For me, proof that the holidays are near comes from the spirit of service that seems to bubble up around this time each year.

Acts of service become overt and mainstream during the holidays. Pretty much everyone — schools and employers, places of worship and sports teams — gets into the spirit, launching efforts to collect and donate items like jackets, food and toys for those who are less fortunate.

To that, I say: bravo! Everyone, myself included, needs a reminder of what the holidays are really about. These seasonal initiatives give us a focused way to make a real impact.

But as the season of service ramps up, I like to politely remind people that Scouts do this kind of thing 12 months out of the year.

In fact, it’s kind of our slogan.

Do a Good Turn Daily

Compared to the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and even the Scout Motto (“Be Prepared”), the Scout Slogan might be the least-known official BSA “saying” outside of the BSA.

But those five words — “Do a Good Turn Daily” — are a fundamental part of Scouting’s DNA.

Scouts might participate in service projects every month or recite the Scout Law every week, but those Good Turns are meant to happen every single day.

That’s a Good Turn every 24 hours — or 365 of them each year.

How big of an impact is that? Consider this: If all 2.2 million youth members of the BSA did their Good Turn every single day, our movement would complete 803 million Good Turns every year!

That’s about 2.5 Good Turns for every single person living in the United States. That’s an impact people feel.

But what counts as a Good Turn?

Completing a Good Turn every single day might seem daunting. What if I’m sick? What if it’s snowing? What if I’m busy with school, sports or life?

As Scouters, we can help Scouts remember that Good Turns don’t have to be giant service projects.

Start by facilitating a discussion at your next meeting about what makes a good Good Turn. (This could be a future topic for a Cubmaster’s Minute or Scoutmaster’s Minute, as well.)

Your Scouts or Venturers might decide that a Good Turn could be something as simple as:

  • Holding open a door for someone who has their hands full
  • Asking someone who might be having a bad day if they want to talk
  • Picking up a piece of trash that someone else left behind

What other examples did your Scouts share? Leave some of your favorites in the comments below.

A tradition of Good Turns

You have to go all the way back to issue No. 4 of Scouting magazine to find the first reference to the Scout Slogan in that publication.

In the June 1, 1913, issue, Scouting called the Scout Slogan, “the very heart and life of the organization.”

“To live for others is one way to get real joy out of life,” Scouting wrote. I love that.

Just as I have done above, Scouting in 1916 reminded readers that effective Good Turns can be “little Good Turns.”

“A bunch of little Good Turns … soon make a big difference in the general atmosphere of any community.”

‘Practice what we preach’

As leaders, Scouting magazine in 1913 put it on us to “practice what we preach.”

If we do, Scouting magazine tells us, our Scouts “will acquire the habit of thoughtfulness for others which the world needs today.”

And that kindness the world needed back in 1913? Yeah, we still need it today.

Take a moment to think about what Good Turns you might inject into your life. Chances are they’ll be a little different from the ones your Scouts will come up with. Like:

  • Letting another driver go first at an intersection
  • Paying for someone else’s meal or coffee at the drive-thru
  • Spreading encouragement online by leaving a positive comment or reply

What other “grown-up Good Turns” can you think of? Leave a comment with a recent Good Turn you completed. You won’t be seen as bragging — you’ll be giving others an idea for their own selfless acts.

Like Scouting history? You’ll love the Scouting app

For complete access to every issue of Scouting magazine ever published — from 1913 to today — download the official app.

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