Every year I try to take time to reflect on my life, taking a checkpoint on the journey. As I hit a milestone birthday, I reflect back on people that have had the most impact in my life. I have been blessed with so many wonderful friends, family members, coworkers, and people during each phase of my life. My mother taught me respect, compassion, kindness and love. My father taught me strength, sacrifice and how to take care of my family. My friends have taught me loyalty, challenged my thinking, and shaped my ideas of the world around me. My children have helped me reconnect with innocence and kindness. However, there is one person who has had the greatest influence on me throughout my life, my wife Nell. She has done more to show me, push me, pull me, support me, and love me along the way. She is an incredible role model and I am confident that I am a better person today because of her than I could ever hope to be on my own.
I have found that it is not just people, but organizations that shape each of us as well. The groups of people that we choose to spend our time with have an impact on us. Be it sports, music, theatre, or service groups. The groups evolve us because of the nature of the people in those groups that we choose to associate with. In my case, scouting is the organization responsible for having the greatest impact in my life. Beyond the obvious goals of scouting to teach leadership and citizenship through outdoor activities, several of my oldest and dearest friends can be traced back to the days of hiking and camping in the woods of Virginia through my early teenage years. Later, when my own boys became scouts, scouts reminded me why this is such an important organization in the development of young people and offers opportunities no other your organization can.
When a scout first joins a troop, the first four ranks are based on mastering the basic skills around citizenship, camping, hiking, first aid, fitness, and working as a team. Once a scout achieves the rank of first class, each new rank requires a position of leadership. The objective is to take the skills that you have mastered, use them, and give back to others who follow behind you.
This really feels like a metaphor for me today. Hopefully, by this point, I have mastered the basic and necessary life skills. Now it is time for me to reflect and give back to those who follow me. I look for ways to show my paved path to those that follow behind me or help them find their own path. Give back to my neighbors, my community, and my fellow man.
As I begin this new path, I have culminated a list of organizations, all of which give back in some respect to the community in which I live.
My friends and I are all very blessed. We all have our struggles and strife. With that said, I hope each of you will take a few moments to look at this list and choose to give back to one that represents what is important in your life.
I appreciate all your friendships and well wishes on this special day. Please join me in helping those around us.