I am writing because I believe we are at a critical juncture for boys.
It has been said, “Difficult times make strong men.” The present challenges facing our nation create a unique opportunity to cultivate the men of tomorrow. Will we grow men of character and courage who are competent to face the challenges of the future?
In The 5 Critical Needs of Boys I wrote, “If we fail this current generation, it won’t be because we over-challenged them, it will be because we under-challenged them.” I am afraid that may be exactly what is happening in our country. During this extended time of fear and uncertainty, I am afraid the worldview of too many boys and young men is being negatively altered. Physical and emotional maturation is accelerated in pubescent boys. Cultural influences can create lasting change in their thought processes during these critical developmental phases.
COVID-19 has made it much more difficult for boys to get together to do the things they love. The negative drain on kids’ mental and emotional well-being is deepening as they spend more time indoors, isolated from their friends and regular, healthy outdoor pursuits. Many of the 12,000 summer camps across the U.S. were canceled this year, increasing episodes of depression and anxiety among kids, a TIME magazine article says.
Right now, our boys don’t need to hear more “you can’t do XYZ.” They need opportunities to positively overcome the restraints imposed by the pandemic ... creatively, safely, and responsibly. I want boys to burst out of this period, not with a fearful and fatalistic acceptance of a “new normal,” but with a bright expectation of new frontiers, greater opportunities, and a wide open future.
If we can’t show our boys how to overcome difficulties with innovation, boldness, and creativity in the midst of adversity, then what can we expect from them in the future?
We need to continue delivering the most adventurous, engaging program for boys that’s been
seen in several generations. We need to continue growing boys in character, leadership, and
adventure opportunities through our patrol method, high adventure, shooting sports, and
Christ-centered boy-focused male mentorship.
“The Greatest Generation”—those who endured and survived the Great Depression and
World War II—faced greater hardships and sacrifices than our generation today, including
food rationing, hunger, and devastating loss. Fear did not define them. We call them “The
Greatest” because of their character, their grit, and their determination to rise above fear.
They were not shielded from every difficulty; they learned to succeed in spite of hardship. This lesson is regularly presented through the outdoor activities, challenges, and opportunities Trail Life USA offers to boys.
Boys are designed to embrace challenge, to rise to the occasion, and to overcome. Their God-given drive is to get out in creation, to get wet, to get their hands dirty, to climb the tallest tree, to take the next hill.
The outdoors—with its wide-open spaces and fresh air—is almost certainly the safest and healthiest place for kids to be. According to the Mayo Clinic, outdoor activities pose a lower risk of spreading COVID-19 than indoor activities.
We have an inspirational antidote to the spirit-crushing home imprisonment imposed by this pandemic. It’s called the Great Outdoors, and it’s calling to boys right now.
Our actions today shape their tomorrows. We refuse to allow current difficulties to break the spirit of the 30,000 members of our program. We reject fear. We aim to use our challenging circumstances to instill perseverance and a never-give-up attitude in our boys in sensible, responsible, practical ways—skills they’ll need to succeed in life and the world outside their bedroom window.
For the health and betterment of our boys, let’s rise above the pandemic. Let’s offer them safe, fun, and creative adventure in the Great Outdoors, where they can grow into men of character.
Who knows? With your help, this period of difficulty may be their training to become the Greatest Generation yet.
In Him for Boys,
Mark Hancock, CEO
Trail Life USA