My Experience with the Girl Scouts
The single-most horrific act of craziness that swept through my recent life and ultimately inspired me to create this blog on faith involves the Girl Scouts. To be clear, despite the serious problems I had, I still admire and respect the Girl Scouts. Everyone’s experience is different. Here is mine.
It all started in July of 2011. I asked an innocent question and my response turned into a moment of being caught off guard and responding too quickly without thinking things through. I had inquired about the Girl Scout group at our school and was told that the person who would be the leader was too busy to do it. I was offered the position of troop leader and practically jumped out of my skin with giddy excitement the same way that young girls crooned over Elvis in the 1950s.
My Leadership Role: Troop Leader
I never thought about being a troop leader and knew nothing at all about the Girl Scouts, but I decided to take on this volunteer leadership role, thinking it would be fun! Immediately, I began my anal-retentive tasks of researching everything I could about our local council and our local group. I called for face-to-face meetings and telephone interviews and got them, along with copious notes and materials, all from surprised leadership folks who were happy to answer my questions but unsure of what all my hubbub was about.
My feverish enthusiasm had me coasting along the sea of denial for months. I studied our manual, read every word from Girl Scout websites, prepared lesson plans for the girls, and created projects with excruciatingly fine details that pleased the girls but drove my family batty. I gave myself a crash course in Girl Scout basics, willingly putting myself through vigorous independent studies as if I were taking the SATs in Girl Scout knowledge.
Anal-Retentive Work Ethic Causes a Breakdown
All of the work that I took upon myself caused me to neglect my house, my domestic duties, and even my own family needs. No one told me to put in so much hard work into these volunteer efforts. In fact, in my experience with the Girl Scouts, the rules were lax and under-imposed. It seemed as if I was the evil dictator trying to teach the girls the proper way of doing scouting with great resistance from the parents. Interestingly and strangely, those who voiced the strongest opinions of criticism were those who had had previous experience as leaders. No matter how hard I worked, I could not please the parents.
My self-imposed intensive efforts to do everything I could for the Girl Scouts left me inconvenienced, famished, frustrated, and outright disrespected.
I had worked on many good ideas, proposed interesting initiatives, and even took the girls to a terrific field trip to the White House. I prepped their Christmas party as exotically as a black-tie event, lavish with fresh-cut flowers from a helpful parent, custom-photo sewn pillows, detailed muffin and soup mixes, and a bunch of extras. I basically went all out for these girls, giving them the time of their lives. Or so I thought.
By the time January came around, I found myself getting physically sick. A lot. I had frequent fevers and exhaustion. The rigors of my activities were catching up. I caught a head cold that invaded my nose and fought like the warriors in the movie Gladiator. I found myself getting cranky with my own family and struggling to adequately perform the demands of a fast-paced, exciting Girl Scout experience. It was all too much. I had been working too hard and letting too many people walk all over me for too long. It finally came crashing down on my head like a failed building implosion. The bricks and scaffolding from the building cut me open, leaving me raw and exposed. I dealt with the blow by issuing an immediate email resigning as troop leader.
Lessons Learned & God’s Plan B!
My waiter listened patiently to my story. He had seen the writing on the wall since day one, but he let me live my life and make my own decisions. Although he doesn’t always agree with the decisions I make, he is quick to offer up a menu filled with hearty specials of the day. My waiter loves to give me more choices in line with plan B in cases where plan A doesn’t work out.
He placed a wonderfully delicious cookie pie in front of me. It was made with Savannah Smiles, the newest cookies from the Girl Scouts. The pie crust was crunchy and tart. The powdery white residue fell to the floor and made a mess, but no matter, I was satisfied. When Savannah once frowned on me, today she smiled, and I smiled, too.
I smiled when I used my faith to realize that, although I had struggled immensely throughout my short tenure as a Girl Scout troop leader, God made it easy for me to quit, by making things so unbearable for me. This tough situation forced me to start prioritizing my time and my decisions. What, exactly, is what I want out of life? If I am a leader, I get to have total creative control over a project, but nothing else. Too many directors telling me what to do, too much criticism, not enough help from others, not enough praise for a job well done.
I finally learned, at the ripe old age of 40, after decades of heartbreak and foolish decisions that once and for all, leadership is not in my best interest. That is a good lesson to learn. Good lessons learned are like blessings that faith brings us when we go through painful situations.
Have you experienced times in your life when your leadership or leadership style has conflicted with your personal actions or beliefs? How did you use faith to get through a tough leadership experience?