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Robert Baden-Powell, father of the scouting movement, is credited with the quote “Leave this world a little better than you found it.”

A friend of mine, who writes a column for a newspaper where I previously worked, used his scouting experience in a column that made me think more deeply about the concept.

Noting that his small city has a list of capital projects totaling some $60 million, he suggested that before looking to build new things, they first demonstrate that they can take care of what they have, and used the scouting campsite analogy to make his point.

He wrote that when scouts use a campsite, they take great care to leave it “better than they found it.” They not only clean it up, but try to improve it in some way, whether that is clearing a fallen tree limb, adding stones to the fire pit, or finding and stacking additional firewood for the next campsite users.

It’s a matter of respect; respect for those who came before you and prepared the place for you to enjoy, and respect for those who will come after so that they also may enjoy it.

It is a great point and has application in all areas of our lives. It caused me, and I hope it causes you, to do a quick assessment.

It’s easy to look at our various governmental units and be critical as I described in a recent column about infrastructure.

It’s much tougher to look at ourselves and ask what we are doing to make our “campsites,” i.e., church, workplace, schools, service club or neighborhood, a better place.

What are we doing to leave them better than we found them?

The problem is, most people feel no obligation, or worse yet, buy into the idea that if we are only doing something out of obligation, we should not do it all.

But as I pondered John’s column I realized that obligation is undervalued. Obligation means “bound or obliged to do certain things, which arises out of a sense of duty.”

We will have an opportunity to vote soon and I urge you to vote, even if only out of a sense of obligation or duty, if you are left uninspired by the candidates in the race. The fact is, choosing to not vote is a vote for the status quo. Not voting is no protest at all. It is acquiescence. Protest is showing up and voting.

Voting is a pretty easy one as it occurs once every two or four years, depending on the office.

I encourage you to go further, to look around your “campsite” and see how you can improve it and leave it better than you found it. We owe it to those who have come before and those who will come after.

Here are some simple ideas on how and where to start.

Find an organization whose mission you believe in. Whether it is picking up trash along a highway, or reading/mentoring a child, and give it all you’ve got.

Promote the cause. Share your experience with others. If you are encouraged and excited about something your enthusiasm will tell the story for you.

Build a relationship. It is proven that when we build relationships within organizations, we will stay with it — even if only out of obligation.

Better yet, build a team. People support what they help create. Building a team for a cause expands your effectiveness exponentially.

Document your experience. There is nothing wrong with sharing your experience, just be sure it is about the experience and not about yourself.

Gary Adkisson is publisher of the Bismarck Tribune.

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