What I’ve Learned from Girl Scouts

Girl-Scouts Logo

Yesterday, I was asked how many years I have been a Girl Scout. This includes all types of involvement because one must always be a registered member whether as a Girl, Volunteer, or Staff. When I mentally tallied the 9 years as a girl, 2 as camp staff and 7 as a volunteer, I came up with 18.

That’s a long time for someone to dedicate to a single thing.

Yes, that is more than half my life, but I had several breaks in membership/activity because I didn’t think I was “old enough” or “experienced enough” or “had enough time” to be a Girl Scout volunteer. It took a while to realize one does not need a daughter or to run a troop to be  active with GS. As a Learning Facilitator, I have the “exciting” role of teaching new Volunteers about the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and helping them understand/use program materials effectively with the girls they are working with.

So many of these new volunteers are joining because they want their daughters to have the same experience they did. Girl Scouts has meant a lot to many women and we are inherently attracted to things that have a  positive effect on us.

Girl Scouts is different though, and it’s hard for volunteers to grasp. Heck, it’s taken me 3 years of facilitating sessions on the GSLE to “get” it, and I feel there’s still more to learn. I often hear in sessions, and read on the web, “If we have to do so much to make it work, why do we have this program?” I’ll be honest that I find some the new program materials leave something to be desired. But I will also say that I get the reasoning:

Girl Scouts is about the experience, not the badges.

This is an incredibly hard concept to make people understand. It’s absolutely a combination of the forest/trees scenario and the fact that change is difficult. It’s also affected by the need to give everyone a trophy, even if they didn’t show up but were on the team (that’s a rant for another day though). The way I understand it, the Journeys program was created to allow girls and their volunteers to have a cohesive, multi-layered experience over the course of many sessions/activities.  The founder, Juliette Low, said this about badges:

Every badge you earn is tied up to your motto. This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing…..but doing…..not just doing, but being.

As I have tried to understand and accept the current program so I can train others on it, I have come to realize that this is a bigger concept than Girl Scouts. Life is about the experience, the journey. The badges and awards (degree, house, marriage  etc) are what you show when you understand what you’ve done and where you’ve come from to arrive at that place.

But the journey doesn’t end (well, it does, but no one likes to think about that unless you believe in reincarnation). Once you have earned the degree or have been hired for the job, you still have to keep yourself knowledgeable about your field, do the work that is set before you, pay your mortgage. Those are all their own journeys within the JOURNEY that is life. Sometimes I think we’re too focused on the badges.