Girl Scouts and I never were a good match. I was their most reluctant member, a joiner at the insistence of my mother, the one who really wanted the Scouting experience. As the time approached for me to sign up, she and I went at it hammer and tong over all the reasons I should join, and all the reasons I did not want to join. Eventually, the sign up day arrived, and she dragged me to the leader’s house where I was properly enlisted into the ranks of Scouting, beginning with Brownies, Troop Number 112.
All my girlfriend classmates from second grade were there with their moms, and they seemed really happy to be receiving a little brown uniform, gold trefoil pin, and handbook detailing the spectacular times we would be having together. Unfortunately, I was sullen, fighting back tears, and wanting more than anything to go home. My mother was chatting and laughing with the other moms, and I realized it was the fulfillment of her dreams, not mine.
When my dad tried to discern why I was so intractable over being in Girl Scouts, I attempted an explanation by way of comparing the Brownie experience with my brother’s boy scout experience. He got to make things with hammers and saws, hike in the mountains, go on camp outs and jamborees, learn to tie useful knots. I got to learn how to do hospital corners when making a bed, sew on buttons, and sell cookies. He believed with his whole heart these activities were proper and as they should be for a girl, and even if I was not too enthusiastic about the sure-fire technique for sewing on a button, he was certain I would have fun selling cookies.
Girl Scout cookies. The delectable little treat that eliminated particular career choices for me for the rest of my life. No one will ever convince me my cookie selling experience was not the reason I cannot, on any level, approach sales without an utterly paralyzing and debilitating response.
It was early spring, 1955; I had been given my allotment of boxes of cookies to sell, and a flyer on which was printed the cost of each. I had decided my dad might be correct, and was going to give this selling adventure a try. So, dressed up in my freshly ironed Brownie uniform, with boxes of cookies stacked in a red wagon, I was instructed to go up and down both sides of our block, and one additional block past ours on either end of our road. Knock on the door, greet, give my sales pitch, and sell, sell, sell. Easy. I knew almost everyone in these houses, and if I did not actually know them, I recognized them. Off I went, by myself, having memorized the cost of each kind of cookie, I believed success was at hand.
And it was. Until I got to Mr. Johanson’s house. He was a crusty old guy about my grandparents’ age, and owned a construction company. I was hoping his kind wife, whom I liked, would answer the door, but he was the one who responded to my knock. I greeted him cheerfully, and began my well-rehearsed sales pitch, ending with asking him how many boxes he would like to buy.
He began by asking me the cost of certain ones, and after I told him, he started dickering with me. Really? Bargaining with a seven year old child for a box of cookies? I kept telling him I could not change the price of the cookies, but would really like to sell him some. Clearly my discomfort did not have any impact on this old goat, because he then launched into a rant about how expensive everything was, and his wife could make better ones at half the cost. I swear I could feel myself shrinking right into my little brown Oxford shoes as he blathered on and on about my cookies costing too much.
Then, he KO’d my budding career in sales with the most unanswerable question I had been asked in all my seven years. He asked, and I quote,”Do you have change for six bits?” What? Do I have change for what? I told him again the price of the box of cookies was 50 cents, hoping he would drop the bits talk and just buy my cookies with normal money. He started to laugh, and told me he knew they cost four bits, and wanted to know if I had change for six bits. That was it. I stood there for an undetermined amount of time staring in disbelief at this customer as though he had just popped out of every child’s worst nightmare. He asked me again if I had change for six bits, whatever in the world that was; and I looked at him with all the confidence I could muster for someone who had been shrinking, and now felt about two inches tall. My words were sincere and no threat was intended when I replied I did not know if I had the right change, but I was going home to get my dad, and he would come back with me to take care of the problem.
Mr. Johanson stopped his laughing and stood up very straight and tall, telling me he had had it with me and the Girl Scouts, and I could take my cookies somewhere else. I am pretty sure he said my cookies and I could go to hell, but at seven, I was not allowed to say that word, so I always recounted his words as telling me to go somewhere else. Then, he slammed the door in my face. I pulled my little wagon home, and did tell my dad about what had happened. He quietly got up from his chair, and went down the road to have a few words with Mr. Johanson. It was not too long before my dad returned, and asked how many boxes of cookies I still had to sell. We counted them together, and he left again pulling the wagon behind him. When he finally came back, my wagon was empty, and he gave me a fist full of money, because Mr. Johanson had decided to buy every box I had. I jumped up and down, so happy I had sold my quota, and would not have to go out again in that dog eat dog world of cookie sales.
And in all the fifty-nine years since my neighbor stumped me with questions about money that he called bits, I have not been moved, even slightly, over Girl Scout cookies. Until this past couple weeks. I am stumped once again, but this time by a man from Waco Texas, who appears to be seeking more than his 15 minutes of fame on the backs of little girls who call themselves Scouts, and want nothing more than to sell some cookies to raise money for their organization.
His name? John Pisciotta, Director Pro-Life Waco. He has organized, and is promoting a nation-wide boycott of Girl Scout cookies, because it seems in his surveillance of all things questionable, he found the Girl Scouts used their Twitter to link to a Huffington Post video about women who had made a difference in 2013, who had risen above the ordinary and done the extraordinary, and were being discussed as possible candidates for Person of the Year. Interestingly, the woman most favored was brave, indomitable Malala Yousafzai. But, that was ignored, and his objection of the day was the inclusion of Wendy Davis in that discussion. Then, there was the Girl Scout Facebook page link to a Washington Post article about more women who had made a difference in 2013, and that one included Kathleen Sebelius. Both women are known for their stands on abortion and women’s reproductive rights.
The point? Today, women can make a difference in the world, and be acknowledged for their efforts. In acknowledging their accomplishments, do we have to abrogate our own moral codes of behavior, our own ethical beliefs? Never. By exposing our daughters and granddaughters to women whose activities are diametrically opposed to the faith and standards which many of us hold as absolutes, are we indoctrinating them into lifestyles we stand adamantly against? Never, never. Do we, as reasonable and discerning people who have the responsibility to train our children and provide them a foundation by and on which they can make informed decisions have the right to hide anything or anyone who does not agree with us, despite their achievements, from our children? Never, never, never.
I can separate the woman who has made a difference in our world from the actual activity that catapulted her to the public eye. I can appreciate her effort, and not agree with her belief or action. And I like offering interesting things to consider and discuss to all ages. Critical thinking works for everyone, and the opportunity to learn about, and make our own choices always should be available, regardless the subject matter, or the person involved. Age appropriateness is the one caveat, but that is a no-brainer.
Unless, of course, we forget about fascism. There are times when we must remember the definition of a fascist, and be able to identify any regime or person who wants to exercise autocratic and dictatorial control over what people think, do or say; the self-appointed controller who actually believes he can aggressively suppress any and all opposition and criticism, real or imagined. We need to be vigilant and aggressive, ourselves, whenever anyone hurts others to promote his own agenda, and places a stranglehold on anyone who does not agree with him in achieving this end.
I am advocating a solution to the current issue called CookieCott 2014. I recommend everyone who has wondered about this piece of nonsense watch the Huffington Post video, read the Washington Post article, go to the CookieCott 2014 website, and become informed. Then, because I believe John Pisciotta has an ongoing need for attention, I think it would behoove anyone who encounters a Girl Scout selling cookies to buy an extra box, and send it to Mr. Pisciotta. His address is on his website, and maybe millions of cookies sent to him might just assuage his seeming need for fame and glory, might give him a sweet treat to ease a bellicose personality, and might provide a little Girl Scout with some joy and fun in her childhood, instead of being a political pawn in a pugnacious grown up world.
I have three boxes of Thin Mints in the kitchen pantry I am putting in the mail tomorrow. Because, even if I was not a very good Girl Scout, and was really deficient when it came to selling cookies, I had the opportunity, and no one should rob that from a little girl.