By: Georgia Gilbert, East Syracuse/Minoa Area Service Unit Manager
I have a bumper sticker pinned to my wall from Ben & Jerry’s that says, “If it is not fun, why do it?” This motto should apply to many things in our lives but especially when running a Girl Scout troop. Girls can have a lot of fun in Girl Scouts but adults can and should, too. No doubt about it, running a troop can be stressful especially when we try to balance it with a full time job, family, children, schooling, and just life in general. We all want to provide the best experience for the girls but if we are not having fun with what we are doing it becomes a source of stress. Stress is not healthy and can lead to burn out. And burn out can lead to not wanting to be a Girl Scout volunteer for very long. First we need to learn the balance so that we can have a good time along with the girls. We all know that having assistance with the troop is one way of attaining balance. Co-leaders, parent helpers, fellow volunteers, council staff are all resources we can use to balance out the workload of running a troop.
Once you have found that balance it is time to focus on the fun. Helping the girls to become the leaders of tomorrow is a huge and daunting task. Uh oh! More stress! But it doesn’t have to be. Girl Scout programming is designed to help us take the girls where they should be – future leaders. And by introducing girls to new and interesting things we also learn new and interesting things. For those leaders who have children, being a Girl Scout leader isn’t about sending your child off to dance class or soccer where you watch from the sidelines. Being a Girl Scout leader means you get to participate, too!
How many experiences have you wanted to have but time and opportunity just weren’t in your favor? Making time for Girl Scouts gives you the time and the opportunity to try those things you always thought you’d do someday or those things you never thought you’d do but pushes you out of your comfort zone. I had one of those out-of-comfort-zone experiences with my troop when, as Juniors, they decided they wanted to go to a horse ranch. They learned about horses, earned badges and had a blast at the ranch. After their trail ride the adults were offered the opportunity to go on a trail ride, as well. I wasn’t going to do it. I had no interest in horses. They were huge and were controlled only by thin straps of leather. No thanks. But I had a number of little eyes watching me and I couldn’t show them I was scared. So, I got up on this massive beast, sitting way up in the air and I rode. I am not afraid of heights but I am afraid of falling and with every step I thought this thing was going to tumble and take me with it. But I did it! Made it out alive! Would I do it again? Probably not. But I can say I did it and I showed my girls that I did not give into my fear. I got a chance to be proud of myself that day.
How many of you ever thought you’d get the chance to visit the State Museum in Albany, the Strong Museum in Rochester, stay overnight on a battleship, or go rock wall climbing? For how many adults, as well as girls, was attending the 100th anniversary sing-a-long their first time visiting Washington, D.C.? How about visiting the sites in your own town? Have you ever toured the newspaper, or one of the TV stations, attended a hockey game or watched candy being made? I had a leader once tell me that attending a Girl Scout tea party at the Everson Museum was the first time she had ever been to the museum. Being a troop leader also gives us a chance to revisit those places and experiences we had when we were kids. I visited the George Eastman House in Rochester as a Girl Scout which had instilled in me a love for historical houses and years later I got to give my troop the same experience. Sometimes we forget with our busy lives that these things are fun and available.
And not every adventure has to take you away from your meeting place. Thinking Day can offer an opportunity for all to learn about a different country. Learn a few foreign phrases, try a strange new food, or perhaps develop a desire to visit that country one day. Badge work can teach everyone a new recipe or sign language.
What do your girls want to do next? Go whitewater rafting? See a Broadway show? Hike the Appalachian Trail? Do an archeological dig? They can do it! And so can you! Don’t sit on the sidelines. You might pick up a new interest, hobby, travel destination, family adventure in the process. Follow those Girl Scouts and your life will be enriched probably in ways you never imagined. And it will be fun!
And “If it’s not fun, why do it?”