Everybody who has encountered them has an opinion about the Girl Scouts. More often than not, I find disgruntled adults who have had a bad experience with one troop that has soured them pretty much forever on the whole organization, which is a shame. I want everybody to be able to have had the awesome, empowering time I did, but it’s sort of a mixed bag. It’s a hazard of volunteer-run things (I hear the same sorts of comments about the SCA).
I’ve been a Girl Scout pretty much my whole life, except for before I was old enough, and not technically at the moment (membership is lapsed, but that’s a total technicality). And so when I hear comments like, “the Girl Scouts don’t do anything cool,” or “they just go shopping a lot, right?” I get pretty fired up.
I mean, seriously! We built houses (I can drive a mean framing nail)! We went backpacking! We learned how to make fires and emergency shelters! I know wayfinding!
But this is the main reason why:
[Photo by Naugle]
This is my camp blanket. When I was 14, I hadn’t done too many exciting things with my life yet. I had gone to church camp, I’d done a three-week stint at TIP (nerd camp) and I’d survived seventh grade. My local Girl Scout council was one involved in a scout/guide exchange program with a council in England, and even though I didn’t think I had a chance, I signed up for the exchange trip. After 6 months of heavy-duty fundraising, I got on a plane and flew to England to stay for three weeks.
I think it’s still one of the more memorable things I’ve done.
Anyway, while there I stayed with an English family and saw a lot of the south part of England (including an outdoor museum of re-build medieval period houses) and camped out in the South Downs with scouts from all over the world. I took a big bag of cheesy USA-themed knicknacks and traded them for the patches on that blanket. In the process, I met people from Brazil and Poland, South Africa, New Zealand, and lots of kids from England. My favorite patch is the red one from Poland, the one with the fish on it, even though I don’t recall who it was I swapped with. But honestly? I like them all. A thing that the Girl Guides do is buy army blankets, cut holes in the middle, and then sew all their “swaps” onto the blankets, so that you can see them and enjoy them. I bought the blanket as a souvenir of my trip, but I realize now, after having had a little perspective, that this is probably something that I’ll pass on to my kids someday.
And ultimately the reward I got from being in the Girl Scouts wasn’t that trip or any of the trips I took (although I never would have been able to do that without the help of the USGS), it’s things like that blanket and what I remember about that experience.
Thanks, Girl Scouts.
[My mom and I are planning on going to Switzerland to visit Our Chalet soon. I’m so excited! Girl Scouts to the max!]
Wow, your Girl Scout experience sounded awesome! I was obsessed with it, too. I went through Daisies, Brownies and GS 🙂 Those patches were hard to earn! This post inspired me to want to dig out my old vest and sash. My parents better have saved it…
The patches are really hard to earn (I sort of gave up and did things with fewer rules). I sort of wish that things I do in regular life had merit badges, though. Like “driving your car” and “paying a mortgage.”
I’m one of those who would say “meh” when asked about Girl Scouts. But if they’d gone hiking, wayfinding, and built houses, I would have loved it. My troop and all of the troops in the area at the time did none of those things. They had meetings, got together to learn stuff for badges (sewing, cooking, bookkeeping), and sold cookies. If you got into high school and stayed with the troop, you managed the selling of cookies. That was it. I did once go to a Girl Scout Camp for a weekend. We went on a nature walk, and otherwise spent the time inside on crafts.
There was one Explorer troop which was run by a woman, and was specifically set up to do the outdoorsman things of Explorers (most in the area were Police Explorers). They welcomed girls into the troop. And they had a 4 year waiting list because it was so popular. >.<
See, and that makes me sad, because it’s an experience I hear a lot of people having. If I had it my way, I’d make sure that all Girl Scouts get as much out of it as I did. Someday maybe I’ll be a troop leader, and I can do my part to make that happen.