This past Monday, February 22nd, was a special day for members of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides / Girl Scouts worldwide. February 22nd is the shared birthday of the founders of Scouting and Guiding – Lord and Lady Baden-Powell – and is commemorated as Thinking Day in the Girl Guide / Girls Scout world and Founder’s Day in the Boy Scout world.
Every year World Thinking Day has a theme, and this year’s theme was “connect”. I thought that it was particularly apt because through the *cough* almost 30 *cough* years that I’ve been involved with Guiding, it has allowed me to connect with some pretty awesome people.
As a girl member, I got to meet other girls from around the world, formed friendships that I still have to this day, and learn a lot of skills that I’ve used in non-Guiding capacities. I have a great repertoire of campfire songs and quiet games that come in very handy when babysitting. I know the best way to make a campfire for cooking versus for heat (and that there are different styles of fires for different purposes). I can tie knots that stay tied or come apart – depending on what the situation calls for – and I know the difference between a sheet-bend and a half-hitch. I got to attend an international camp and became pen-pals with one of the girls that was in my patrol, exposing myself to a different culture through a common experience – Guiding. I earned my Golden Hand as a Brownie, All Round Cord as a Guide and Canada Cord as a Pathfinder and earned almost every Brownie and Guide badge available. (I was unable to earn ALL of them in Guides because of my parents’ unwillingness to let me have a cow in our suburban backyard so that I could earn the dairy farmer badge, or chickens for the poultry farmer badge – some people just don’t understand that sacrifices have to be made!) I had a lot of friends who were in Guiding in Brownies and Guides (I’m old enough that there wasn’t Sparks until I was Guide age) who dropped out at the Pathfinder stage – but I was having far too much fun to think about that. In Pathfinders, my friends and I got in to all sorts of trouble and gave our leaders a lot of grey hairs (sorry!) but also made memories that I cherish to this day. For example, we didn’t like the Pathfinder song much, but didn’t want to sing the Guide Marching song because that was for younger kids – well the first verse was. So we sang the second verse before meetings. I think it was the “hardly ever afraid of cows” line that sold it for us. (We found out during my Gold Camp that the second verse of the Guide Marching Song was inaccurate for our unit – we were ALL afraid of wasps!) Our leaders simply shrugged and figured it was a Guiding song and only made us sing the Pathfinder song when we had the Commissioner or Guides visiting.
Mum was a leader, craft trainer, and commissioner over the years, so I helped out at a lot of events. I have great memories of helping her set up camps at Doe Lake before heading to my site. I was often pressed into service as a colour guard at various ceremonies and was the go-to kid in uniform when the local paper needed a picture of cookie selling or for an article about guiding. I spent evenings setting things up and giving directions when we were doing a Thinking Day or other group campfire at the local mall, and manned the cookie sales booth whether I wanted to or not (usually in the time slots other people didn’t want to take). I was a unit helper with a Brownie unit starting from the time I was a 2nd year Guide – because the unit asked mum if I could do it, having seen me work at herding
cats Sparks and Brownies at a multi-unit event and thought I’d be an asset. I stayed with that unit throughout my Guide and Pathfinder years and added another Brownie unit that I helped with as well. After Pathfinders, I debated Cadets versus Rangers (the program was different then), but ultimately knew my heart was with being a Junior Leader with those same units for the next 3 years. I also got to do things like be on planning committees for things like Venturee ’95, and be the “do whatever needs doing” person at Division and Area camps (which often turned out to be “do whatever other people don’t want to do”). Sometimes being a ‘Leader’s kid’ was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade the experiences I got for anything.
As I left for university, I didn’t think I wanted to continue in Guiding – or rather I didn’t think I’d have the time to commit to a unit. So I signed up for Link. By November of my first year, I missed Guiding so much I went looking for a unit to help out with and found an amazing Guide Unit that I stayed with for my entire time in university. The other Guiders were in university as well, and even though we were in very different programs, we became close friends because of Guiding. In fact, one of my favourite people on the planet is one of those other leaders. I haven’t seen her as much as I would have liked over the last decade, but when we do get together, it doesn’t matter.
I have continued my Guiding career as a Brownie leader, Guide leader in another unit, craft trainer, District Guider (or Guider-at-large), a return to being a Brownie leader in another city, taking over the unit and running it for 5 years, and now I’m a Pathfinder leader. With every new step in my Guiding adventures I meet new people, have new adventures, and find different ways to connect. I’m due for my 30 year pin soon, and I can’t wait to find out what the next 30 years has in store for this organization that has given me so much more than I could have imagined the first time I put on my Brownie uniform and stepped into a school gym. On Thinking Day, I wore my uniform shirt and the classic Guide Enrollment pin that my mum gave me when I became a leader with pride, and explained to anyone who would listen why I was so proud to be a member of this awesome organization. To conclude, I will address the question I get the most often about Guiding: Yes I can connect you with cookies. 😉 If you need me, I’ll be swinging along the open road with a pack on my back and a song in my heart to ease the load.