"On my honor I will do my best to... help other people at all times..." Boy Scout Promise
Every February members of the Boy Scouts of America celebrate the group's birthday. One boy helping a stranger inspired the founding of the organization. In 1909 American publisher William Boyce was in London on his way from America to Africa to join a safari. He became lost in a dense fog. He spotted a boy and asked him for directions. The boy guided him to his destination. When Boyce offered the boy a tip, he replied, "I'm sorry sir, but I can't accept any money. I am a Boy Scout so I do a good deed daily." Then the boy left and was never identified. Boyce was so impressed by the boy's actions that on his way home from the safari he stopped once again in London to learn about Boy Scouts. He met Lord Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, and got permission to bring the program to the United States. Boy Scouts of America was incorporated on February 8, 1910 because of one anonymous boy helping an adult without expectation of any reward.
I became a Boy Scout in 1965. At the time I didn't realize a fundamental change occurred in the organization that year. The BSA began requiring service projects to earn the ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle. I became an Eagle Scout in 1970. Approximately 2 million boys have earned the Eagle rank and it has been verified that they have performed over 100 million hours of service in completing their required projects. That is just at the pinnacle of scouting. As early as 6- years-old Cub Scouts begin performing service projects with their Packs.
When I became an Eagle I joined the Knights of Dumas, an Eagle Scout service organization. To become an official member you had to perform a certain number of additional service hours beyond those required to earn your rank. To remain a member you had to perform a minimum number of service hours each year. One of the service projects I participated in was going to the local VeteransHospital on movie nights to wheel patients to the recreation room. We chatted with them before the movie, and then when we wheeled them back we talked with them about the movie we had just seen. I have not made hospital clowning my specialty, but it was that experience as a Knight of Dumas that made me comfortable in hospitals. I draw upon that whenever I visit a hospital as a clown or Santa Claus. My Scouting experience has made service an important part of my life and career.
The 2013 World Clown Association Convention in Borneo at the end of this month includes a service day. The entire day is devoted to service in the town of Kuching, which is where the convention is located. Clowns will be visiting five hospitals in the morning. In the afternoon they will visit orphanages, nursing homes, and other locations where people need the gift of humor. In the evening clowns from around the world will perform a stage show for an invited audience of people who are elderly, disadvantaged, or have special needs. Bob Neil will be working backstage setting props, another important way of providing service. I believe this is the first time a variety arts convention has devoted an entire day to serving their host community.
One of the lectures that I will be presenting at the WCA Convention is Jest Juggle: the Link between Humor and Health and Humor and Creativity. I will share with participants why humor is beneficial. When I entertain at a nursing home I don't get as much response as I would from a younger audience. At first I found that discouraging. It is the audience response that makes performances fun for me. Then I realized that my reason for being there is not to be rewarded by the audience. My reason is to serve the residents by providing the benefits of humor. I focus on that while I am performing in those venues.
As a performer, how can you use your entertainment skills to help others? If you are a member of an organization, how can you provide service to that organization? In your personal life, how can you help others around you?