Right now, all over the world people in Guiding and Scouting are celebrating the joint birthdays of their founders Robert and Olave Baden-Powell. Guides call it Thinking Day, Scouts call it Founder’s Day, but it’s all the same celebration, thankfulness for the things that Guiding and Scouting have brought to the world.
All day, I’ve been thinking about what Guiding means to me.
I’m not technically a member right now, but I volunteer when my sister Neece (or anyone else) needs me, and I just sent in a entry for the Guides Canada blog. I still feel connected to Guiding, I honour the goals of the organization, and I’m looking for ways to use my skill set to the Guides’ advantage. I’m not yet totally involved, but I always feel the pull to give back to the organization that I love.
Guiding was a vital part of the formation of my feminist perspective – one of the guiding (ha!) principles of my life. There were other contributing factors of course (my parents, my teachers, my friends), but Guiding was a huge movement that told me that I was okay just as I was.
When I was in Guiding, my competence was assumed. Just think about that, how huge that is. I was a ten year old girl and my competence was assumed.
Ten year old girls have to be one of the most dismissed groups on the planet, yet in Guiding, my leaders and my program expected that I could do or learn to do whatever needed to be done. My competence at leading a group, carrying a bucket of water, setting up a tent, tying knots, learning a language, doing a science badge, was never in question. Instead, it was treated as a given.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t supposed to ask for help, help was always offered and encouraged, but it was assumed that all of these little girls could carry heavy things, cook meals on a camp stove, run fast, climb high, go on adventures, and learn and execute complicate tasks. Never once was I told to do or not to do something because I was a girl.
What a treat for any kid, but especially for a ten year old girl in 1982. In many other arenas I was put down, shut up, directed to be lady-like (ha!), but for two hours each week and seven days in the summer, I was free to be myself. My strong, competent, opinionated, self.
Yes, not only was it okay for me to be competent, but it was also okay for me to be opinionated – imagine! In school I did a bit of blending, making myself a bit smaller so I wouldn’t disturb the order of things, so I wouldn’t get the attention of the guys who were intent on keeping girls ‘in their place.’ I feigned squeamishness and silliness, not all the time, but enough to make me feel sad about it.
At Guides though I could take up my full share of the space. And it was fantastic.
I wonder, if I hadn’t had that public arena of Guiding, would I have been a different person? Would my feigned squeamishness and silliness become real? Would my smaller self have become my whole self? Would I have been lost?
I don’t know, and I hope not, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.
Happy Thinking Day, Guides!
Keep taking up your full space – the world needs every part of you.