On Wednesday night, we threw a surprise party for Sunrise. She was recently given a Good Service award, and the parents from our Brownie unit wanted to congratulate and thank her. We arranged for her daughter to be spirited away at the end of Brownies and a change of clothes provided, and we whisked her away to a pub. She had no idea what was happening!
But, fun though it was to be involved in arranging such a surprise, that is not the topic of this post. One of the parents at the party brought up a question which I thought deserved a longer and more public reply.
We’d been discussing what an amazing experience Guiding was for the children, how they grow in confidence and have experiences which they will remember for the rest of their lives. And then she asked this:
“… but what do you get out of it?”
That stumped me for a long moment.
Where could I possibly begin?
The most obvious starting point is fun. In running a Brownie unit I have the perfect excuse to play with paint and glue and glitter, to make models and play games and sing songs. I get to burn (appropriate) things without people looking at me oddly. I get to camp out and cook on an open fire and make s’mores. I get to go abseiling and kayaking and to Disneyland.
As a member of Girlguiding I’ve been to Iceland, Mongolia, India and Mexico.
In short, I enjoy it.
But in reality, it’s so much more than that.
I get friends. I am surrounded by people who I love and trust, people who I know will be there for me no matter what. People who I would gladly be there for, no matter what happens to them.
I get guaranteed friends, basically for ever. No matter what happens in my life, where I end up going, I know that there will always be people I can call my friends. If, for example, I end up moving to Canada, no problem! Girl Guides of Canada will be there for me, a new family ready and willing to accept me. If I have to go to Bangladesh, or Bahrain, or Uganda, or any of 145 different countries around the world, Guiding has me covered. Of course, the less extreme version, involving moving from Bristol to say, Westerleigh, would also get me an increase in friends!
I get to learn things – I believe the buzzword is “transferable skills”. As a leader with Girlguiding I have grown in confidence, learned how to speak in public, learned how to organise events both large and small, and learned first aid. I’ve learned how to speak to people of different ages and abilities without patronising or confusing them. I’ve learned to take pride in my work, and different ways to inspire others to do the same. I’ve learned how to manage a team of other people.
I think the most important part, for me, is that I get to watch the girls develop from timid, uncertain, children into confident and knowledgeable young women. I’ve seen the expression on a young girl’s face when she finally gets it, or manages a task she had previously failed at. I’ve seen girls overcome their fears – of heights, of spiders, of staying away from home – and girls who have discovered the joy of helping others overcome their fears.
I get to contribute to that development. I am constantly in awe of the responsibility I have because of that. I know how much I was influenced by my Brownie leaders, and I just hope that my legacy is even close to theirs.
And occasionally, very occasionally, a girl will come up to me, her eyes shining with the light of discovery and adventure.
That was amazing, she’ll say.
I’m going to remember that for ever.
And that, my friends, is what I get out of it.