For the past fifteen years, my three daughters and I have been active Girl Scouts. Over the years, many have questioned us about our decision to remain involved. We’ve heard every excuse to leave: Girl Scouts isn’t pro-life; Girl Scouts exploits girls through the sale of cookies; Girl Scouts only cares about making money; Girl Scouts is too time-consuming; Girl Scouts doesn’t care about the girls or the volunteers; Boy Scouts is better; and so on.
This past week, my three girls and I spent seven full days at the Girl Scout campground closest to our home where I am the director of a week-long summer camp, and my girls are all counselors. Rebecca ran the boating program, Katie worked with the high-ropes and zip line course, Morgan assisted with a Brownie program, and I spent the week running the camp for the twelfth year. This camp is the number one reason why we continue to be a part of Girl Scouts, and it fully exemplifies every good thing about the organization that everyone overlooks. If you find that hard to believe, I’d like to share with you some of the responses from our post-camp surveys.
My daughter loved…
“the camp fire and s’mores. Loved learning to kayak and paddle board. I love all the new experiences she gets to have and all the new friends she meets.”
“finding her independence.”
“having independence and opportunities to do things she can’t at other camps”
“learning things she can’t learn or do anywhere else.”
“Wonderful, caring staff.”
“that the counselors and PAs are helpful, the friendships I make there, the new skills I learn”
“Being with girls/women who are leaders”
“the flag retirement ceremony”
“I love that they get to experience new things and spend time away from electronics! They enjoy all of the girls and staff. They enjoy learning and doing new things.”
I could share dozens more, but you get the point. Girl Scouts, the organization, may have its problems, but from what I’ve seen over the past year or so, they truly are trying to fix the problems. It will never be perfect, but neither will I. One thing I do believe with my whole heart is that, without people like those who volunteer for our camp – not a single one of us is paid to work in the 100-degree, humid, often-stormy camp, filled with sand and dirt and bugs – the organization will never, ever be able to obtain the vision that Juliette Gordon Low had for it. Without camps such as ours that exist entirely to build up girls and create women of courage, confidence, and character, where can these future leaders go to build their self-esteem, learn new skills, enjoy the outdoors, and learn how they can make a lasting impact on their community and the world.
I’ve observed girls grow from silly, unfocused, little girls into responsible young woman able to lead successful programs as high school students. I’ve seen an autistic child find a real friend who didn’t care one bit that her new friend was “different.” I’ve watched my own daughters blossom into leaders, unafraid to try new things, speak out, and take charge. I’ve seen middle and high school girls who, for one week, don’t care about makeup or hairstyles or impressing boys, but care about making friends, learning to build a birdhouse (using the power tools needed to do it), identifying birds and trees and plants, mastering a kayak or paddle board, conquering their fear of heights, and helping homesick girls feel comfortable and happy.
There’s nothing like the feeling you have when you go from learning to sew your first stitch to completing a whole lap quilt in one week’s time,
or when you get your first bullseye on the archery range,
or when you perform a skit for 170 people that you wrote yourselves, or when you when you reunite with your “camp best friends” after one or fifteen years.
We strive to be honorable, to serve God by saying grace before meals, to serve our country and our community through multiple service projects throughout the week, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law. We recite the Girl Scout Promise and the Pledge of Allegiance every day. We respect our flag and, in the words of the late, great Johnny Cash, “we raise her up every morning. We take her down every night. We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right.”
I’ve heard many people, over the years, wonder what their true calling is. What is it that God wants them doing with their lives? While writing is the gift that I believe God has given me to share with the world, I strongly feel that running this camp, meeting these people, helping these girls to grow and become the women they were meant to be, is my true calling in life. And what’s more pro-life and pro-woman than that?
There may be those who have their problems with Girl Scouts, but I will continue doing my part to help the organization be something that would make Juliette Gordon Low proud of the institution she created. After all, in her own words,
“The work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”
― Juliette Gordon Low
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