Powerful musical tribute shows the lasting impact of a quality leader

It doesn’t take much for you, a Scout leader, to have a profound impact on the life of a young person.

Put another way: “The smallest gesture can spark a life.”

In the case of Cub Scout leader and Nashville singer-songwriter Dean Madonia, that leader was a Scoutmaster named Ernest.

Ernest was so special to Madonia that the musician was inspired to write a moving song about the man. It’s called “Doesn’t Take Much Light (To Shine in the Dark),” and it’s written by Dean Madonia and David G Smith.

Watch the song performed by David G Smith below. It’s a reminder that the impact of a quality Scout leader can last a lifetime.

“Doesn’t Take Much Light” Lyrics

I got permission from David to post the lyrics:

Doesn’t Take Much Light ©Dean Madonia/Soft Monkey Music/ASCAP; David G Smith/Alrose/BMI

Called my old scoutmaster Ernest J out of the blue
His wife said he’s having a bad day _he’ll be glad to hear from you
Ernest J came on the line _and I talked about
Me growing up poor_ and not having my dad around

I figured out where the money came for summer camp
Because of you those were some of the best days I ever had
I haven’t forgotten and I wanted to tell you that
It’s why I called

The smal-lest gesture can spark a life
Kin-dle the courage to fight the good fight
To get the picture look up at any star
It doesn’t take much light / to shine in the dark

Ernest J your wife tells me you’re not feeling well because
You’ve got something doctors think is Parkinson’s
Yeah, he said, I’ve had it for a few years it’s been rough (like they say)
Some days you’re the windshield__ Some days you’re the bug
Some days I can take it__ Some days not so much

Sometimes I tell myself I’m gonna win
Sometimes I just wanna toss the towel in
On days like today it’s good to get help to
Remind me who I am


Hey Ernest J I’m meeting with my scouts tonight
Gonna set up a telescope and point it at the sky
Put it into focus
Gonna tell em what you always told us


  1. Reminds me of my first Scoutmaster, Dr. Moore, who ‘Went Home’ last year. Thank you for your tribute to Mr. Ernest and all the wonderful Scout Masters out there.

  2. Just this week I spoke across the country with my scoutmaster who is 85 and won’t be around much longer. I’m 61, and attribute my years in scouting to him. Thanks for sharing the song, the memories, and a tear.

  3. This song was written in honor of my father, Ernest J. Lutes. He was heavily involved in Scouting for more then two decades. I am happy to report that he was able to hear this song, just shortly before his death in 2013…and they brought tears to his eyes. The lyrics tell a very true story. Co-writer, Dean Madonia, was in my dad’s troop. He was also my classmate. Collaborator and singer, David G. Smith, never knew my father but has become a good friend. Both are very talented artists!

  4. This is an INCREDIBLE tribute to all Scout leaders throughout the world! I was the Scoutmaster of our Troop here in Ohio for 8 years and now only an Asst Scoutmaster. My driving force has been my very own Scoutmaster “Bud” Mitchell back in Williamsport, Pa who made a HUGE impression on me as a young boy. He gave me so many AMAZING memories that I will cherish forever. Every time I went home to Pa I wanted to look him up and talk to him. I never had the chance to tell him how much I looked up to him as a role model but never really appreciated it when I was younger. Unfortunately he passed away just a day or two before I went home this past Thanksgiving. I regret making time to see him! I still hear your voice in my mind in the early mornings when I wake up on our campouts. Thanks Mr Mitchell for all the GREAT times and memories!!!

  5. I have a beautiful video of Mr. Ernest Lutes listening to this song. Fortunately he was able to hear it before he passed away. Such a huge impact he made in Dean Madonia’s life, the ripple effect will be far reaching through Dean’s Cub Scouts!
    I wish there was a way to post the video!

  6. When in Wood Badge they have the movies or excerpts from movies to show the effect that one person can have on so many, this song should be included. There won’t be a dry eye in the crowd.

    My dad was my Cubmaster, and Cubmaster for two years after I moved up to Boy Scouts. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to move up to Boy Scouts with me. Had he been my SM or ASM, I would have spent more time in Boy Scouts. I made it a priority (and luckily was in the position to be able) to work with my grandson from Tigers on up (he’s a senior now, and an Eagle 2 years). Those years are invaluable to our youth, and mold tomorrow’s leaders. What an honor for Ernest J. had have such an inspirational song dedicated to him.

    Suggest that this artist be invited to perform at Jambo 2017…it would be inspiring for all of the leaders who work so hard to get their boys up there.

    • I was lucky enough to be a leader in some capacity for my nephew while he was in Scouting from tiger thru Life Scout. Unfortunately, he then became interested in being a volunteer fire fighter, so I did both, leader for about 4 more year’s for Cubs, and join his fire co’s Ladies Auxiliary to support him. I now am a Girl Scout leader for his daughter, and enjoy that as much as my time with BSA, although, it was easier to throw camping trips with BSA! I feel these are special times I spend not only with my nephew/Great niece, but their friends, and hope they will fondly remember me when they are adults too…….

  7. A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.
    – Forest Witcraft, American Scholar, Teacher, and Scout Leader

  8. I encourage everyone to watch Dean’s video in it’s entirety. Listen to the words carefully…you will hear everything that scouting was meant to be. I definitely think that Dean Madonia and David G. Smith should be invited to perform at future jamboree’s! I and many other’s would be terribly disappointed if they weren’t.

    • Thanks Sharon! I think that Willy said, “if you didn’t cry when you wrote it it’s probably not worth a darn!”

  9. it is true,,,you never can know in advance,,,,when you will say something or do something that will affect the life of a young man,,, for the rest of his life……the posibilitys are frightening and oh sofullfilling…….for those who have NEVERobserved a yooung ‘man’ finaly achieving a ‘boand on a bight’,,,you do not no what a wonder thrill it is…

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