So, I guess…

Speaking at “the place where the bad thing happened”  (That’s what Selam calls it, and what I will call it to avoid being a google hit) on Tuesday was not good. It felt borderline awful.

First, there were about 100 people there, instead of the 12-15 that I’d expected.

Second, I couldn’t figure out who was in charge, so I introduced myself to a woman in uniform thinking she might be a leader. Yeah, she was the executive director. Oops.

Third, when we walked in, the room was flooded with “stuff.” There were forty or fifty condolence cards scattered around, gifts of candles, chocolates, posters.  People are really reaching out to the community in whatever way they can and with whatever connection they have, and for some people–the whole world over–that way is girl scouting (or your denomination or yoga, or whatever connection you have…we met in a UMC church and there were posters on their walls from UMC churches elsewhere, too.) So this room FELT heavy from the get-go. Loved and appreciated but heavy.

So, I was very, very nervous.  I did my spiel, perhaps not as eloquently as I might have otherwise, but I did it. And the comments afterward made me feel like I was doing the wrong thing. Or the right thing at the wrong time.

Two days later (today), I got a phone call from the GS office asking me to come back and do the same presentation two more times.  She said that the leaders loved it and that she’s gotten emails referencing it.

I have seriously lost sleep over this, thinking that I had left people more upset than they started out.

I can’t do both of the additional times, but I will do one more. For what it’s worth, I mostly referenced GS stuff, and talked about how there are built in aspects of our curriculum that can help kids navigate the free-fall period, that kids are receiving support in many different places and we don’t have to be all things to all people, but we should excel at what we excel at.  I talked about how some of the things kids can benefit from are very clearly scouty–structure and tradition and routine (hellO, every footstep is a tradition), telling time in ways not related to the tragedy (patches and petals and other things like that), engendering a future orientation (through teambuilders, goal setting–something already built into cookie sales, and anticipating the next level of the program), emphasizing ways of making girls feel confident and in control (doing those safety badges and other things that emphasize mastery of the environment), and providing opportunities for 1:1 conversations with adults who have long relationships with them. I also talked about the importance of them taking care of themselves and accepting reasonable help where offered, and letting go of elaborate projects in order to spend more time just being present to the children.  I used the thing Mary recommended about how “everything you need to know is present in this room” and actually tied it to a very famous Girl Scout story (twist me and turn me and show me the elf).

So it was what it was, and though I really thought it had bombed out, I’m grateful to know that I’ve been a little bit useful.  That’s really all one can hope for in these circumstances.


12 thoughts on “So, I guess…

  1. Wow. Good job and I totally feel for you. Doing intervention work is exhausting. And the way people react to it feels personal, but you have to coat yourself with teflon. Whatever bad vibes you got were probably just the bad things people needed to get off their chests. And they probably felt better after doing it–you just didn’t get to see that part.

    When you do it again, find someone to immediately meet with you for coffee or something. Unload all the crap that gets thrown your way. Just talk about it for a good 30+ minutes and then move on to something totally different.

    • It wasn’t so much bad vibes as it was sobbing. I felt like it was way too soon for something so program oriented. BUT I was responding to the leaders from that exact school. The leaders from the other schools in town were more in the same place as I had pitched the conversation. I think the leaders from that school probably needed their own meeting.

  2. Clearly, what you shared resonated with them and really was helpful. I love the link with twist me and turn me — it choked me up. That was our troop’s very very favorite story for many years (hey maybe it is time to break it out again) — I think because it points to what you have within you. I suspect how you felt while you were presenting was in large part due to the totality of the situation…you did good Susan. Very good.

  3. I love everything that you suggested and shared with them.

    I know that when I was a scout there were plenty of times when our Leader taught or shared things with us that we would not have gotten at home. A different viewpoint from that of my parents or church leaders.

    I love the brownie story. One of my favorites.

    My sister’s troop always donates a portion of cookie sales to an organization that the girl’s vote on & choose. Once it was a special needs group. (there is a girl in their troop with Down’s Syndrome) last year it was a no kill animal shelter b/c they are all animal lovers.

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