Some girls grew up with the pinky-swear system. The act of linking fingers and locking eyes with someone meant, without a doubt, their word could be trusted. Others engaged in the oath of “putting it on” something of unparalleled value to remove all doubt from the subject at hand. “Put it on your first-adopted Cabbage Patch Kid,” “Put it on your Punky Brewster hi-tops” - that kind of thing.
The girls I ran with simply held our three right fingers in the air and vowed, with great pride and respect, “Girl Scout’s honor.” With that, whatever promise or claim we made was accepted as the unbreakable, undeniable truth.
I was reminded of the solid lie-detector test when one of my dearest friends announced via Facebook that her 10-year-old daughter had left for several days to attend Camp Cloud Rim, the summer stomping grounds for Girl Scouts in my home state of Utah. According to Girl Scouts of the USA, camp programs are an “empowering” means to prepare girls “for the challenges of everyday life.”
We had no idea it carried such significance back then. We simply thought of those parentless summer days and nights as the time of our lives. Looking back, the objective was all around us.
Beauty was all around us, too. Majestic mountains, alpine lakes and aspen and pine trees stretched far and high enough for a group of 9- and 10-year-olds to stop and appreciate the vision. Camp Cloud Rim is one of the few sites from my childhood that my memory hasn’t Photoshopped into a Hollywood movie set over the years. It was magnificent to begin with.
That’s why getting up at the crack of dawn didn’t seem like such a burden there. The first time we had to do so was for our sunrise hike. At 9,200-feet elevation in the middle of summer we layered our clothing, doubled up our socks and got to stomping up that mountain, flashlights navigating us. We “how much longer’d” our way to the top, where we wondered when the sun became so shy, and so gorgeous.
All that hard work provided quite the payoff.
The next time we woke before the sun did, we ended up with goose bumps and chattering teeth. Camp counselors called it the polar dip. We called it a sick joke. Still, we laughed about the experience over hot chocolate afterward, warm towels draped over our shivering shoulders.
It was an unpleasant situation, but we got through it together.
The most intense exercise we participated in took place indoors. Our chins pointed upward as we absorbed just how high that ceiling crawled. We were to climb, with the help of helmets, cables and harnesses, the focal point of the Camp Cloud Rim lodge: a sky-high, rock-structured fireplace.
One by one we cheered our fellow Girl Scouts on with words of encouragement as they dangled above us with shaky hands and took long, hard swallows. One by one they slipped short of the final rock. More than one scout wiped tears off smiling cheeks when she touched ground. Even our leader, who first touched the ceiling.
We faced our fears. That in itself felt like success. Life lessons are most effective when the subject has no idea he or she is in a classroom.
As one of 59 million U.S. women who was a Girl Scout, I appreciate more than ever the lessons Camp Cloud Rim taught my troop all those years ago. According to the Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study, Girl Scouts grow into adults who “feel better about themselves, are more active as mentors and community volunteers, vote more regularly, are better educated, and enjoy higher household income.”
Girl Scouts of the USA turns 100 years old this year. To commemorate the anniversary, it started ToGetHerThere, an advocacy and fundraising campaign aimed at balancing leadership among men and women “in all sectors and levels of society.”
News like that makes me just as fond of the organization now as I was back then. You have my word on that. But, in case there are any doubts: Girl Scout’s honor.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.