A holiday message from the Boy Scouts of America
Have you ever thrown a pebble into a still pond and watched the ripples as they expanded into ever-widening circles?
A few years ago, Michael Browne did that on a fishing trip with his dad. He watched as a lead weight fell off his fishing line and sank to the bottom of the lake. Michael wondered: What sort of ripple effect might that lead weight have?
A member of Troop 5 in Milton, Mass. (Boston Minuteman Council), Michael went home and did some research. What he learned shocked and saddened him. Fishing enthusiasts buy an estimated 2,700 tons worth of lead every year, primarily to replace lead weights accidentally dropped into lakes, ponds, and rivers in the United States. Lead poisoning is a major cause of death for loons, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and other waterfowl.
The problem inspired Michael’s Eagle project, dubbed “Get the Lead Out of Fishing.” He started with modest goals: to recycle 40 pounds of lead weights and educate 500 anglers on the dangers of lead weights. He took his message to fishing derbies, passing out brochures and samples of lead-free weights.
Michael completed his Eagle project in 2007, but he’s still working to “get the lead out,” and the ripples of his efforts continue to expand. He’s been asked to testify before the Massachusetts legislature and speak at conferences of environmental activists. His research was used to support Massachusetts Senate Bill 466, which will limit the use of lead in fishing.
Michael’s accomplishments earned him a BSA Medal of Merit. That’s doubly impressive when you consider that Michael has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that made public speaking and verbal communications particularly challenging for him. Although a little overwhelmed at first, Michael overcame these difficulties and gradually became more at ease.
Philosophers like to cite the image of the ripples in a pond as a metaphor—reflecting the way that every action we take, every choice we make, sends ripples through the world around us and affects other people in ways we may never know.
Michael Browne’s decision to tackle a problem is still sending ripples out into the world. He’s showing how a special-needs youth can overcome challenges. He’s making an astounding and significant difference in helping protect the wildlife we all enjoy. His heartwarming story serves as a good reminder to us this holiday season.
As a Scout leader, you are an important person for the young people you lead and guide. Generously, you keep tossing your “pebbles” into the pond—your gifts of time, leadership, encouragement, teaching, and guidance. Know that those contributions are sending ripples of positive influence in the lives of youth and in your community.
We want to thank you for extending yourself to others through the Scouting organization. And to wish that you and your families enjoy every good blessing this holiday season and in the year ahead.