A Love Letter to Girl Scouts of the USA
I love you... Signing up to be a scout at the age of 11 changed my life. I wasn't sure it was going to work out at first, but I hung in there and I'm pretty glad I did.
As you know, each scout troop has a certain level of autonomy, so a troop in one town might be doing something completely different than another troop a few miles away. At my first scout meeting the local troop was engaged in doll making. I could not have been less interested in sitting inside a church rec room sewing tiny clothes and manufacturing a "body" out of bean bags or some such nonsense. In those days I was in full tomboy mode and skeptical about what could be gained from hanging around with a bunch of girls. I spent exactly one evening in attendance; I never went back.
To back up a little, the only reason I even joined in the first place was to get a discount at the nearby Girl Scout camp - something which did interest me. It was a sleepaway camp and the programs were all based on outdoor activities: sports, survival, whitewater rafting, swimming - that's what I wanted to be spending my days doing. Fortunately, my little escape act prompted the discovery that there was an option to be an "independent member" of the scouts wherein I would not have to attend any troop functions but still retained rights to the discount - win win! (Thank you for that option by the way - this story would not have turned out the same otherwise.)
I went ahead and registered as an independent scout and then for a series of 1- to 2-week long programs at Camp Amahami. I would go on to attend every single year until I graduated from high school. The many, many weeks I spent at that camp are absolutely what spawned my love for your organization.
At the time, it was even more than just love of the experience - it was a sanctuary. Having what could generously be described as a "turbulent" home life, being able to spend weeks of the summer tucked deep in the woods where I was supported and active and surrounded by positivity was the best thing a girl like me could hope for.
I got so much out of camp - so much that a thousand "love letters" could not even begin to capture my gratitude. I was a lonely kid hell-bent on isolating and being bummed out about the circumstances I was in - but on those wild grounds I learned how to get over myself and really show up for life. I learned how to socialize with other girls, make goals and then accomplish them, work in a team, sing and write songs, do service, have respect for tradition, and so much more. There were counselors from all over the world in addition to regular ol' American ladies so I got to learn about other places and cultures too. I still remember Fez, a counselor from Turkey; she led the dance program I took my first year.
Of course, there were also things that freaked me out in the beginning, but only because I literally didn't have any frame of reference or inkling of what I should be doing. We said grace before every meal, participated in flag ceremonies after dinner, and there were latrines instead of actual toilets. (To be fair, there was a building with actual plumbing and real toilets located in the center of the camp, but for the most part we used the wonderfully fragrant latrines.) Oh, and we had to wear socks and sneakers at all times! NO sandals. Ugh, I used to think that was such a bummer in the heat but the rule did make it possible for me to engage easily in lots of sporty activities so there was that.
I went through the whole spectrum of camper to counselor-in-training over the course of about five years. In that time, I learned how to ride horses, swim every stroke in the book and of course build a fire. I faced my fear of heights and spent a week without a shower while backpacking through the Adirondack mountains. I got certified as a lifeguard and in CPR. I was a trained survivalist. I even learned how to change a tire the year I earned a badge in Auto Maintenance. Nothing was off limits to me - anything was possible. Being a girl was never something I had to "overcome" - I was capable and strong and given opportunities to prove these things to myself and others over and over, and over again.
I was inspired to write this after seeing a post circulating on Facebook about "what your cookie money funds." Incidentally, it was a list of items I wholeheartedly support, but I knew that it was a propaganda post so I didn't pay it much mind. Nevertheless, it reminded me that I have plenty of my own reasons to love the Girl Scouts without having to be swayed by the media.
Your institution is based on love and service, courage, tolerance and most importantly, inclusion... The Girl Scouts offer young women the opportunity to be anything they want to be in a safe and supportive environment. The values you promote and stand for are exactly what we all need. I am endlessly proud to have been a member, independently or otherwise.
Also, your cookies are like, really, really good.
A happy camper