On My Honor
On International Women’s Day 2016, I was in our nation’s capital meeting with a group of faith leaders who gather live twice a year to share stories of efforts across the country to protect reproductive choice and achieve reproductive justice. We met, appropriately, at the headquarters of a human rights organization. At the desk where we checked in, there were two open boxes of cookies to welcome us – at 8:20 in the morning.
Girl Scout cookies. Also how appropriate.
On March 8th, we honor the achievements and lift up the threats to women around the world: listing the female scientists, authors, artists, performers, and politicians who have paved the way. We collect lists of books to read, movies to watch, histories to study. We do this so that the lives of adult women might be improved and enriched, even saved. We do this so that the lives of girls, present and future, might be bettered as well.
So those familiar (to most of us) smallish green four dollar boxes are so emblematic of what our wishes for girls might be. The meme on the back is “Oh, what a girl can do!”
On every box is a description of the cookie sales program and what it teaches girls: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. It is a program and an agenda for self-development that has been a means for troops to fund activities since the first cookie drive was organized in 1917 by the Muskogee Oklahoma’s Mistletoe Troop. According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, instead of being sold door to door (or as is now more common in front of grocery stores and even, most recently, privately online), these first baked goods were sold in a local high school cafeteria.
By the time I was a Brownie Scout (now called Cadette) in the mid-20th century, commercial bakers were producing the familiar staples: a sandwich cookie, shortbread, and chocolate drenched Thin Mints (still a quarter of all cookie sales.)
Truth be told I hated selling those cookies, and wasn’t crazy about some of the merit badge requirements, like learning to tuck hospital corners and sew aprons. But I loved the camping, the singing, even learning how to fold a flag properly at the end of every day. And I remained an active scout until early high school. If I was a Scout today, I could earn a badge called Common Ground – strategies for bringing people together – and a UU Religion in Life emblem to wear proudly on my more stylish uniform.
I remember making the Girl Scout promise lustily over so many years and in so many settings, from school auditoriums to a rustic dining hall in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Covenanting, among other things, to help people at all times; to obey the scout laws; to do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong; to respect myself and others; and to make the world a better place.
In this new century, as always, the Girl Scouts have remained resolute in their values but have evolved in the ways they have acted on them: including locally-based programs on human sexuality and, most recently, welcoming transgender girls.
This has led to a call by at least one Catholic official, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, to urge members of his parishes to boycott the Girl Scouts , including this year’s annual cookie sale. In his letter, he cited Girl Scout support for “transgender rights, homosexuality, and other stances at odds with Catholic values.”
In a call to action, Catholics for Choice urged everyday Catholics – and others – to buy cookies from a local Girl Scout troop, to make a donation to the Eastern Missouri Girl Scouts or Girl Scouts of the USA, and send a letter of support to your local Girl Scout council.
Just a week or so left until the cookie sale is over for this year. In my house, we are down to only one box of Thin Mints and one of shortbread Trifoils. But there are six more varieties out there, including Mango Cremes and Lemonades. And a sales table nearby.