The Power of Influence

by vk3arr

My parents have recently moved back to Victoria, as part of a downsizing effort, and that means a lot of stuff from my childhood is coming back to me.  Photos, memorabilia and the like, is all flooding in to our house.  Last week, I took possession of my old cub scouts shirt, complete with badges and insignia.

I had planned to remove the badges and throw the shirt away – it no longer fit, obviously, and the uniform itself has changed enough that no one would ever use it again.  Unbeknownst to either my parents or myself, in the top pocket was a letter.

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I found it while wondering why the pocket was stiffer than the other.  It was a letter sent to me by my ex-Akela, Russell Clark.

It has been almost 25 years since I last saw Akela, so my memories have dimmed, but I remember a man similar to many I have met over the years since.  He was someone who cared passionately about the development of young people; he gave opportunities to many, and he trusted us, the 10 year old Sixers, to run a lot of the day to day activities.

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The letter

The letter reads as follows:

Hi Andrew, it’s your ex. Akela here, please find enclosed with this letter 2 Badges which we still owe you.  The first one is the Blue level achievement Badge for Codes, Congratulations on achieving this higher level badge, it shows me once again that you were willing to spend that extra time to aim for that higher level, above what was set for the cubscouts to do.

The second badge give[s] me great pleasure to award to you, it’s the Gold Boomerang.  Even though we had trouble finding a leader / parent to teach the Gold Boomerang, you still managed to complete the requirements necessary to pass this badge.  Once again congratulations on attaining these badges Andrew, You were an excellent and well behaved cubscout and I hope you remember and use the things you learnt in Cubscouts in the coming years.

Finally, as you grow older don’t forget your Law and Promise, let those words guide you through life, and I am sure you will grow up to be a fine youn[g] man.

All the best for the future,

Russell Clark

Akela

I must admit, I had to look up the Cubscout Law and Promise.  I did not go on to do scouts or the higher levels.  For the record, these are below:

Cub Scout Promise

On my honour
I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to my God, and
To the Queen of Australia
To help other people, and
To live by the Cub Scout Law

and

Cub Scout Law

Cub Scouts are loyal and obedient
Cub Scouts do not give in to themselves

Worthy ideals to strive for, I feel.  Whether you believe in a God, or are a republican, the idea of duty to a higher purpose (even secular), to helping other people and being loyal and obedient citizens are fine qualities.  The last term, not giving in to themselves is a mark of tenacity, but also of having a respect for yourself and your capabilities.

In terms of my personal memories, my time in the Air Training Corps (now Australian Air Force Cadets) has a much more prominent place.  This is undoubtedly due to the AIRTC/AAFC occupying a time as I developed into the young man that Russell refers to.  The leadership and management training I received there I use regularly in my current job.

One of the learnings from there was a Sergeant who told me early on that as you develop as a leader, you absorb the characteristics of those leaders you most admire, until you find yourself saying something that you realise is the manifestation of that leader inside you.

For me, Russell’s legacy to me is to trust people to do the right thing.  I look now at my leadership style and I see the influence of Russell, of my COs and NCOs in the AIRTC/AAFC, of previous managers in my career.  This influence is strong, and your leadership style will always absorb that.

In the amateur radio space, it may not be obvious, but consider how many of you, humble readers, had an influencing person that you involved in the hobby? Have you paid this forward and brought new people into the hobby, into SOTA, or into your favourite area? Without those who influence, hobbies and movements die out, and we are lucky to have, and I have been lucky to meet, many who influence others as second nature.

In reading Russell’s letter, my overwhelming desire was to write a reply to him, so that he understood the impact and influence that people can take in other’s lives.  So that he could recognise that the simple act of taking the time to put encouragement into such a letter might have an impact on someone 25 years later.  In trying to find out if he still lived at the address on the letter, so that I could reply, I discovered he passed away on January 30, 2010, relatively young, from cancer.

So Vale Russell Clark, and here’s to your legacy, and the legacy of those who have influenced me, to Russell, to Hoppy (dec), to Bill and Chris, to Steve, to Smithy and Jim, to Dan Lowe (dec), and to those not mentioned whose leadership and life I have in some way absorbed into mine.

 

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