Jack Simpson - Scout leader's lessons hold up years later

He's deceased. A World War II veteran who, like many of his generation, watched as his family suffered hard times during the Great Depression. He was among those who faced new challenges and rebuilt their lives. They lived during a difficult period in our history, but I saw no bitterness in Ken. He was one of those white hat fellows we used to watch at the Saturday matinee. He was a good guy: clean cut, honest, reliable and respected. The real McCoy.

Before and after World War II, Ken was a Boy Scout leader. He remained true to the principles he learned at home, church and in school. He was a mentor to many young people in the community.

Even before attending college, Ken was a natural-born teacher. He taught his Scouts about history, art, music and camp crafts. Having trouble with tying knots? See Ken; he could whip up a near perfect sheepshank!

Many of us had not heard some of America's great music before Ken played them on the piano and held sing-a-long sessions. He taught us swimming, first aid and even how to drive a car - his 1933 Plymouth.

You can probably tell, Ken wasn't much for sitting around doing absolutely nothing. He told us there was a big world out there and we should be exploring it. Watching old movies and cartoons could get boring after awhile. Ken was an active leader, and he included us in his building of a rich, full life. He liked doing good deeds for others.

We collected scrap for the War effort, sold bonds, visited disabled people in nursing homes, helped with flood relief, built shelters in the woods where we fed wild animals in the dead of winter. We helped reforest areas devasted by fire or drought. You name it, we performed good deeds everywhere and even helped a few old ladies across the street!

A favorite activity was sitting around a campfire in the woods having bullsessions, singing and a cookout over the fire. We learned bird calls and how to identify the many trees in the area.

Life in a small Pennsylvania town centered around our homes, churches and Scout hall. Each of us knew we were living in hard times and that life had dealt us a bad hand. We adjusted and we were not bitter people. Bitterness did not drive us to our churches and our guns. We were taught to handle adversity. We hunted to eat and we socialized in church. Here we were nurtured.

The lessons we learned were inspirational. They apply today. Instead of wasting time in front of a television screen or constantly playing video games, go find yourself a Ken. There are many dedicated people like this, ready to be mentors to youngsters willing to learn how to be productive members of society. People like Ken are wise, inspirational volunteers who serve others unselfishly. One of their main messages is that being physically active has health benefits, as well as providing an opportunity for social interaction.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.