Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giving Thanks

I still keep Sarah Van Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance beside my bed. It’s a wonderful reminder and tool for counting my many blessings. There is something meaningful and real when we take time to write down things in our lives that matter, and it is a practice that I highly recommend. November seems to be a time when we all try to focus on being thankful. The Thanksgiving holiday helps us to remember how much we have, and invites us to give back to those who are in need. The Girl Scout Promise teaches us to serve God and country and help people at all times.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the whole year. I like that it brings together family and
friends, with no need to buy presents. I can go to worship if I chose, but no strict requirement. I fly my flag, but don’t need to make a patriotic speech. There are lots of foods that I like. And I get to do two of my favorite things – set the big table and put out the holiday towels!

In my own life there are so many blessings that I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed with
good fortune, and I know other people who feel this way as well. I certainly have my share of whiney days where I know I need to do better, but if I was a worrier, and thankfully I am not, I would be waiting for some other shoe to drop. I am blessed with people who love me. My family is healthy. This year everyone has a job, and I continue to have the best job in the world. My brother, a Colonel in the U.S. Army, is deployed to the Middle East, but seems to be in a safe spot for the time being. This past year I have had wonderful travel adventures. My dogs make me laugh, and the cat makes my husband happy. I have lots of stuff, and plenty to read. I discovered the fun of a DVR machine. Bama has won more than they have lost. The onslaught of political commercials is behind us for awhile.

The Girl Scouts of Nassau County have much for which to give thanks! Although we
weathered a bad storm at Camp Blue Bay last summer, there were no injuries and property damages were minimal. The trees will grow back. This year our Council won awards (again) for being one of the best places to work in the whole Country (NonProfit TimesTop Fifty). So far, we have been able to continue services to our girls and maintain employment despite the recession. Our girls learned how to grow vegetables and herbs this summer on the Farm at Oyster Bay. They cleaned up beaches, collected and packed food for the hungry, and sold 55,000 boxes of Cookies to be sent to our soldiers. 67 Girls earned the Girl Scout Gold Award. We are continuing to give girls and adults the tools, tactics and language that they need to tackle the Critical Issues in their lives. And every day, somewhere in our Council, girls are having fun, learning, earning and making the world a better place through Girl Scouts!

Tell us how you and/or your Girl Scouts are giving thanks this year!

Friday, November 5, 2010

GAYteway Behaviors Normalize Bullying by Guest Blogger, Carole Aksak

“That is SO GAY.”

“That outfit is SO GAY.”

“YOU are SO GAY.”

These are the jeers of the schoolyard hurled between kids too young to know or understand what it is to be gay. They are the insults flung out there, to their peers, to each other. It starts early. It starts young. And even if you don’t know what it means, you know it is meant to hurt. So at very young ages kids are picking up those verbal arrows and tucking them neatly away in their arsenal for use upon others, when needed.

If you are the adult hearing those words, what are you doing or saying? Are you choosing to ignore the insults? In your mind, is this just another case of kids being kids? Or, do you stand there and meekly say to the perpetrator “Stop that. That’s not nice.”

Well, what’s not nice? Is it the verbal attack or being gay?

In view of the recent suicides of male teens, identified or perceived as gay, across our country over the past few weeks, adults are not doing enough to address the playground taunts of boys and girls. Name calling against any group, whispers, rumors and innuendos are all gateway behaviors that can lead to other kinds of bullying. It changes the culture of an environment, which should be safe and nurturing for our sons and daughters. When left unchecked, unaddressed, or ignored we begin to normalize bullying making it “not such a big deal” anymore.

When girls and boys, children or teens, begin to take their own lives because of the taunts of their peers, whether the name-calling is based upon facts or perceptions, it concerns me. To be authentic in your own skin is a right we are each entitled to. When any group is targeted, it impacts me. I am not safe. This is a human issue, not a gay issue. This is bullying, not kids being kids. Girl Scouts of Nassau County is on the forefront to address of these issues.

As adults, we have a responsibility to each other to address gateway behaviors before they begin to escalate to acts of violence—violence against each other or the violence suffered by our own hands just for being whomever we are. Bullying starts young, it starts early, and it starts with gateway behaviors. It’s the adult’s obligation to address it. Always, always, always respond when you hear or see bullying happening.

Girl Scouts is committed to creating a safe and nurturing environment, period. Our Promise and our Law provides us with a code of honor. We will be a sister to every Girl Scout. We will show respect for ourselves and others. And we will do that through our words and actions. Everyday. Everywhere. All the time.