Learning to Let Go

27 Apr 2017 by gebhard, No Comments »

When I was Kingdom Youth Officer, I once taught a class on new ways to make Youth Point fun and exciting to all SCA members, not just children. After the class, a fellow caught me leaving the room and wanted to ask a few questions.  He said he was part of some other historic reenactment groups, and nearly every member had a long gray beard.  They just couldn’t get new members to stay.

He wanted to know if I was I seeing this trend in the SCA? What did I think we could do to increase longevity?

Learning to let go

That got me to thinking about one specific feature of our Society. The SCA has a interesting built-in mechanism that helps with retention if we can tap into it properly.

All positions have term limits, from the King right on down to the local chatelaine. We’ve built a culture that suggests anyone holding a position too long is a problem.  This is a great idea on many levels.  Someone new brings new ideas and energy. Over time, that may fade when someone is stuck with something that has become a chore. Instead, we can encourage people to pop in, implement their ideas, and pop out.

This has an added benefit of being an excellent way to get new people involved. Offering someone a job to do is a way of saying, “We think you’re important”. The new ideas and energy they bring may help improve the overall experience for everyone.

Roles and Peers

You may be asking, “If we fill in new offices with new people, won’t we lose our traditions?”

It’s true that we tend to get caught up in a certain way of doing things, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be new improvements made in those existing systems.  Who knows, maybe something completely new and different is worth giving a try. Anything that doesn’t evolve over time becomes extinct.

This is where I believe the Peers come in, especially the Pelicans. In my opinion, part of the role is to help make opportunities for others and to encourage their ideas. However, it is NOT to tell them how to do things. It is acceptable and even expected that someone will have a bad idea. Assuming there are no legal or safety issues, how else will we find the good ideas if we do not take risks and try things out?

For example, as a new local youth officer, I once had a Nerf Gun fight at our local event, Red Dragon. There was no pretext for this as a medieval activity.  It just seemed fun to me, and fun is period, right?  No one stepped on my idea or told me it was wrong.

The day went off without a hitch. I had a number of older teens and adults come play with the kids during the hours of shooting darts at each other with brightly colored plastic guns.

Afterward, I asked for feedback. I was told by a Peer that it was a fun thing to do. It had looked like everyone had a great time. This Peer went on to say that the purpose of the SCA is to reenact the middle ages. It’s good to do something outside that once in awhile, but we shouldn’t do it all the time.

This gentle encouragement, rather than being told I was wrong or being shut down completely, allowed me to set a bar for fun for an activity.  Then, I felt challenged to find a period activity that had the same “fun” effect. I spent the remainder of my term as the local youth officer, then a regional officer, kingdom deputy and finally KMOY, doing just that.

That could have gone very differently.  Had I been rebuked in a meeting, or told not to do it, I probably would have just walked away, at least from Youth activities.

Getting everyone involved

We have all experienced newer members in our local groups who are enthusiastic and full of ideas. Everyone benefits when we value that energy and enthusiasm by offering them the opportunity to get involved, to implement their ideas and to genuinely care about our society and to feel cared about in return.

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