“Gilwel Field”, “Lord Baden Powell“, “Work your ticket”, “Woodbadge Beads” and several other names and phrases were ones I had never before heard of this side of 3 weeks ago. But now, these things have a deep meaning and significance, much deeper than I ever expected them to, that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Sometime around six plus months ago, at a team meeting at work, my boss invited me and the rest of my coworkers to attend “Woodbadge” (another term I’d never heard of). He serves as a scout master in his local unit, and had attended Woodbadge last summer, had a wonderful experience, said it was a great leadership training which is something that’s I’ve always enjoyed being apart of, and that it was much like a “hands on experience” with applying the principles from the amazing book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey. Myself and one other co-worker agreed to go, and that began our Woodbadge journey.
Now, neither myself or said coworker are involved in a scouting unit, or have any real experience with scouts at all. Sure growing up LDS, I have attended Eagle Courts of Honor for friends and family over the years, and been to some rank advancement ceremonies… but that was years ago so basically I was a blank slate. In preparation for course (another name for Woodbadge; actually being there and participating) we had to do some simple preliminary training’s and we both signed up to be Merit Badge Councilors so we could at least say we were somewhat connected to scouts.
Fast forward to June, and it’s time for Woodbadge. We arrived with literally no idea of what to expect, but we’re pretty young and up for trying just about anything so we went in open minded. Not gonna lie… by the end of the first 3 days, I was like “What the heck have I gotten myself into?” It’s a pretty intensive, and involved program and I was having a hard time at first seeing how it was really “worth my time” to come back to for the last three days. Looking back I realize what a selfish and immature brat I was being feeling that way but needless to say, the Lord humbled me.
The last three days of course, you get to spend a lot of time doing things with just your patrol, which is comprised of about 5-7 people and one troop guide who kind of checks in on you all here and there to make sure you’re on track with setting your “tickets” (goals) and accomplishing other tasks. The first 3 days you do much of this too, but there was something special about these last 3 days that really brought the meaning of Woodbadge into perspective for me.
Backing up a little bit, the paradigm shift really started for me on the second day of Woodbadge after playing a very intense game of “Win All You Can”. To explain this shift, let me get a little “personal”:
I’ve been home from my mission for two years and 3 months now. An LDS mission is basically an 18-24 month, not quite as overwhelming version of Woodbadge. You set goals, you have to try new things out of your comfort zone, you have to live by a code of conduct, remember that you represent more than just yourself, etc. live with and deal with a complete stranger 24/7 for the duration of your companionship, and much more. Many of these experiences are similar to being on course. You have your patrol, again made up of total strangers, you have to set your ticket goals just like you set goals on your mission for your area and companionship, self improvement, etc., do activities you might not be totally comfortable with (i.e coming up with cheers for every Troop gatheirng), learning about living the scout oath and law, represent the BSA and a ton more.
Since returning home, I really haven’t felt apart of anything much greater than myself since that time and it’s been hard to feel like I’ve really been “moving forward in life”. This Woodbadge course was such a great recharge for my life. The day before coming home from my mission we were asked to set some specific goals to help us keep progressing, and keep applying the principles we’d been applying for the last 18-24 months. Upon returning home, I followed those for a while… but then life got going again and long story short… I think I’ve only accomplished 2 of my 6 original goals. Shameful I know, but it is what it is. Going to Woodbadge for me was both frustrating, and rewarding just like being a missionary. I look back on these last 6 days with about as much fondness as I do towards my time as a missionary (which is A LOT).
I was reminded of my ability to do more than I currently am with my life. Of how to be a better communicator, friend, wife, employee, and daughter of God. I was reminded that we all have so much to offer each other and the world, and that it’s not our job to judge and put people down because what they do makes us feel awkward or uncomfortable. We all need to embrace one another’s diversity and natural God given gifts and talents. We all need to be pushed out of our comfort zones from time to time so we can grow and make the most of our time here on Earth. Furthermore, I was made more aware of who I am, and what kind of person I ultimately want to become for the sake of my future family, and for the sake of the youth that I’ll interact with throughout my time in this life. It really is for them that we need to push ourselves to be our best, so that they have someone worthwhile to look up to and learn from. They are our replacements. It’s up to us to prepare them for the world ahead and those accompanying responsabilities. In the word of Kasey Musgraves, “You only get so many trips ’round the sun” so we need to make them count.
I am truly grateful that I was invited to Woodbadge. I know everyone takes something different away from this experience. Most of the people who attend are scout leaders, and I know their home units are going to be so blessed and impacted by the things learned on course. But I also know without a doubt, that not a single person can go to Woodbadge, and not be changed and inspired personally for the better.
If you ever receive an invitation to this amazing event, do yourself, your family, and the community you influence a favor…. and get yourself to Gilwel!
To read about another perspective on Woodbage, follow the link: W2-107-17-2 Woodbadge- Belive In Yourself