Thursday, January 20, 2011

Girl Scouts ... Not Just For Girls

I remember walking into a room full of incarcerated women all waiting for a very non-traditional Girl Scout troop meeting. Hidden behind the crowd of children were two - a brother and sister - there for the first time. The room quickly filled with chatter and hugs, but one moment stood out above the rest. It happened so quickly, I don't remember who saw whom first, but they ran toward one another and the room opened to give them their moment. Hearing the emotion-filled, stabbing cries of a mother mingled with those of her children as they embrace for the first time in years is ... well ... for lack of a better word, it is profound. A Girl Scout, a "tagalong" brother, an incarcerated mother all joined together, now working together toward hope. This is one of the faces of Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouting truly goes far beyond the young girls. I've been thinking about how many connections a girl has in her life ... and they are significant. Imaging if you could inject courage, confidence and character into each of those relationships. How does that affect her mother? Her brother? Her schoolmates? Her teachers? Her mentors? Her future?

I remember interviewing a volunteer who works for her local school district. She shared stories that spanned from Girl Scouting to the schoolyard. I laughed and cried right along with her as she shared moments that changed girls, parents, teachers, volunteers and her. I was humbled by the increasing ripples of impact I heard just through one voice.

I remember being introduced to a woman who said that Girl Scouting was just as much for her as it was for her daughter. The same courage, confidence and character that were being built in the girls was also growing in her. She was able to free herself from abuse and finally see that she, too, had a wonderful and hopeful life ahead of her.

I remember hearing about the adventures of a Girl Scout with disabilities and her troop as they were learning to rappel ... and once again laughed and cried through the trials and triumphs expressed. And I was so thankful for the man (one of our outdoor trainers) who encouraged, empowered and guided this young girl down the rock. Ask him, his wife, or his dedicated family (their daughters are also volunteer leaders) about Girl Scouts and they'll share stories that span generations and build families.

I remember reading a thank you note from a volunteer who never expected to use her first aid training to save her own son. And to the schoolmates of the two Girl Scouts I know who have literally saved lives because of what they learned in their troop? I can barely find words. The impact is eternally priceless.

And even I, being on the lowest scale as I simply hear these stories from the outside, am changed for the better. Imagine how making a difference in our youth could impact the world!
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