Build a good fire

Build a good fire

A while back, I read a contributed column from a Scout who grew up in the 1950’s. He proudly shared the story of his Scouting adventures and thanked two Korean War veterans who served as Scout leaders for his troop. Their Scouting philosophy, according to the column, was based on four words:  Build a good fire.

Those words and the message behind this article – it’s a good read – got me thinking.

At first glance, this is pretty standard advice for our Scouts – a good fire keeps you and your patrol or troop warm and dry, it cooks your food, heats hot water for washing and cleaning, and provides a sense of safety and security.

But a good fire can be looked at another way – it can symbolize life’s lessons and why Scouting is as important to today’s youth as ever. Consider these qualities:

Confidence – preparing the tinder, stacking the firewood, and making it all come to life with one wooden kitchen match – signals the beginning of a great Scouting experience if everything is done right – just like giving kids at a young age what they want for their first Scouting adventures.

Growth – the initial yellow and orange flames leaping to the sky – and growing as the fire is fed – makes one think about how our Scouts also grow as we provide the fuel of knowledge and opportunities for life-changing experiences.

Innovation – finding ways to keep the flames alive, protected from rain, and serving the needs of Scouts and their campsite – symbolizes how – with the help of our Scouts – we can offer fresh, new experiences that appeal to them while continuing to rely on the methods that instill the values of Scouting.

Leadership – as the fire dies down and smolders, it can easily ignite again with a few dry twigs tossed on top at the beginning of a new day – a promise of sustainability for Scouting as we focus on how the essence of Scouting lies in the outcomes – developing character, citizenship, leadership and physical and mental fitness – which are the aims expressed in the Scout Oath and Law.

Let’s all remember the importance of building a good fire, and apply this thinking to how we work with America’s young people every day.  These are good life lessons we should all remember.


Nathan Johnson

As a member of the Communications team at Boy Scouts of America, Nathan Johnson enjoys finding and sharing the stories that inform, inspire, and delight the Scouting family.


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Build a good fire
Build a good fire
Build a good fire