It was the first weekend in May. I was standing on the podium in the sanctuary of Peoples Congregational Church in Washington, DC , dressed in dark blue. Around my neck was the green Girl Scout Scarf, and over my heart the pins that symbolize my membership in Girl Scouting and my status as a leader. As I looked at the radiant faces of the Girl Scouts and their families, I realized that with the upcoming graduation of my last child, I would not be part of many more such gatherings.
May is the month of ceremonies and closings in Girl Scouting. This year I felt the need to add one more ceremony to the lineup – a Gold Award Pinning and Silver Trefoil Recognition Ceremony for the troops at Peoples Church. For me, this ceremony not only marked the end of the year; it marked the end of an era.
I don’t have godchildren, but I have had these girls to guide and to love for the last 10 years. The girls in the troop have become a team – working together and making events happen. The mothers in the troop have also become a team – sharing information on programs, and tactics for dealing with common child-rearing issues. Our girls have performed service projects, and earned Girl Scouting’s highest awards. They have held events – slumberfests, and Father/ daughter dances. We have traveled together to Savannah Georgia, the home of Girl Scouting, to Annapolis, Maryland, to Paris, France, and to the Girl Scout World Centres in London, England and Adelboden, Switzerland.
Half my troop is leaving this year. They are graduating from high school and going on to college, bridging to adulthood. This includes my last beautiful child, Dara, who has assisted me as “the leader’s daughter” without complaint for my entire tenure, and who inspired me to take the job in the first place. My time as leader is coming to an end; the thought is bittersweet.
Bridging is a term used often in Girl Scouting. When girls move from one level to the next we say that they “bridged,” and put special bridging symbols on their vests. When girls graduate high school, we say that they have bridged to adulthood. This last bridging is different from all the rest. It reminds me that there is another kind of bridge, the command center of a ship. I see my girls taking the bridge, and assuming command of their own lives. Soon they will sail away on the journey of life. I may never see some of them again. But I have done my best and they are well prepared for whatever will come their way.
At the end of the ceremony the Girl Scouts and I hold hands in a friendship circle, sing Taps and pass around a squeeze. Then we have our traditional exchange of words. I say, “I expect great things of you.” They answer, “ I expect great things of me too.” Finally we turn the circle inside out, departing into the world, off to the next thing. As I smile, give hugs, and make my goodbyes I remember: “Ships at harbor are safe, but that is not what ships are built for (Shedd).”
Tonda Taylor Bean, MBA, MSOD, Mom
Advisor, Girl Scout Troop 4704