I want to share a little story with you.
My scoutmaster (we’ll call him Scott) once gave a Scoutmaster Minute that has stayed with me for almost 10 years.
The incident took place during his time in the Army. Scott was an officer, and had just gotten off a brutal shift that had lasted nearly 24 hours with no rest. He joked that at the time he thinks he was taking coffee intravenously just to stay awake. Anyway, as he walked to his barracks, a very nervous looking soldier wearing civilian slacks and a white t-shirt approached him. He said, “Sir, can I have a word with you?”
Scott was about to say yes, when it registered with him that the soldier who was addressing him was not in uniform. Sternly, he rebuked the soldier and said, “If you’re going to address a superior officer, you need to be in uniform. Go change and then come back and talk to me.” The soldier protested at first, but Scott was firm. The soldier left and returned in his uniform, but it was disheveled and unkept. Scott again rebuked the soldier for his unprofessional appearance, and sent him back a second time. This time, the soldier took care that his appearance was professional and worthy of standing before the superior officer.
This time, Scott was satisfied. He said, “Now that you’re dressed appropriately, let’s take a walk. What did you want to talk to me about?”
Nervously, the soldier said, “Sir, I’ve been very depressed for a long time. Tonight, I told myself I was going to go out, ask to talk to the first person I saw, and then kill myself in front of them.”
Scott was shocked! The soldier continued, “But after you sent me back to put on my uniform, it gave me time to think, and now I’m not sure what I want.”
Scott spent the rest of the evening counseling the soldier, who ultimately decided not to take his own life. The moral of the story? Standing on ceremony may be a hassle sometimes, but there are good reasons for it.
Never underestimate the impact of insisting that things be done the right way, the first time. Because Scott insisted that the soldier follow the proper protocols of respect, the man’s life was saved.