Every summer, I have the privilege of leading an outstanding group of women and girls in having a week of fun we will never forget. No, it’s not a Bible study or a women’s conference or a writer’s event. I guess you could call it a leadership-building conference, and the qualities we are working on instilling in these young girls are courage, confidence, and character, the three pillars of the Girl Scouts. Aside from writing, I believe this is my calling. While many may say that it’s not important, I can assure them it is, and here’s why…
The luxury accommodations we’re staying in are tents and screened-in Adirondack cabins. The food being served consists of chicken tenders and pigglesticks, and the leisure activities are boating, archery, zip lining, and high ropes climbing. It’s not every woman’s dream of the ideal summer vacation, but to these girls, this is the experience of a lifetime.
For a large number of the girls, this will be their only outdoor experience all summer. While some will spend their summer with their noses buried in cell phones, others will only see brick walls and concrete outside their bedroom windows. This one week, they can breathe fresh air, swim in a lake, paddle a kayak, soar through the trees on a zip line, and hike in the woods. Their program and activity leaders are teaching them about nature and outer space and tropical islands. More importantly, these fabulous women, teens, and three men are teaching the girls about life.
Six-year-olds who cry for mom on night one will end up crying because they’re going home on day six. Some will learn to tie their shoes. Others will learn to swim. Many will conquer their fear of heights on the zip line or high ropes course. Some will discover the beauty of an early morning spider web or the joys of a nighttime paddle excursion. Through all of these adventures they will learn…
To share–a cabin or tent, a special adult (even their own mom), a canoe, a camera, or a sewing machine.
To compromise–sleeping on the top or bottom bunk, giving up a paddle board for a kayak so someone else can take a turn, or trying new foods.
To appreciate the world around them–on the lake, in the woods, in the field, and even in the recesses of their cabins.
To navigate life’s difficulties–homesickness, living with a stranger, doing chores, and getting along with someone they may not like.
To conquer their fears–fear of heights, fear of bugs, fear of being away from home, or fear of the unknown.
To become a leader–by comforting a friend when she’s sad, assisting an adult with a program, running a program (some of the very best programs we’ve done have been led by sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen-year-olds).
They learn that the sunniest day can suddenly become cloudy and plagued with storms.
They learn that rules are in place to keep them safe.
They look up to the Teen Program Aides and strive to hold that position someday. They are taught by women to doing amazing things like building robots. Our robotics program face-timed a young woman who was attending the National Robotics Championship. How cool! They’re discovering that there is so much more to the world than they can imagine.
Most of all, they learn that they are special, they are unique, they are capable, they are strong, and they can grow to be lawyers, doctors, nurses, cable news camera operators, occupational therapists, teachers, professors, and even award-winning novelists. The sky has no limits–something they learned with an evening of stargazing.
We are truly building girls of courage, confidence, and character. If takes a village to raise a child, it takes a campground to raise a generation of leaders.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: What does it mean to be a “true friend”?.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.
Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is based, in part, on her family history and is garnering many five star reviews.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).