It’s Girl Scout cookie season (I think you know where I’m going with this). Selling Girl Scout cookies has changed a lot since I was a Girl Scout decades ago. We used to go door-to-door and we had to sell the cookies. There was no pre-ordering and you could not ask your parents to take them to work to sell for you. We’d dress up in our uniforms, nothing like the uniforms of today. Ours were dresses or skirts, hat(!), certain colored socks, sash and pins. Ugly and uncomfortable, but you never showed up to a Girl Scouting meeting or event not in complete and correct uniform. Our meetings were after school, so you wore your uniform to school. Being a Girl Scout was considered nerdy, but we didn’t care because we were having all of the fun and doing things no one else was doing!
The Girl Scouts have always been ahead of their time. When Girl Scouting was started in 1912, women did not have the right to vote or many other rights either. Our troops were integrated, sometimes the only place where kids of different ethnic backgrounds mixed. We accommodated the different religious beliefs of girls so they could still participate in troop camping trips. In 1973 I was a troop leader for special needs girls, girls not even allowed to go to a regular school because they had some label that identified them as “different” from “regular” kids, but who benefited by belonging to a troop of girls who accepted them and allowed them to be who they were without judgment.
Many years later, I received a call from one of the local pastors who asked if I could meet with one of his parishioners. He said he didn’t feel comfortable meeting with this woman. It wasn’t unusual for clergy to call me because I had more training than most and I was the only woman clergy in the entire county. When I asked about the nature of the case, he only said she had been suicidal. That wasn’t helpful and I knew I wasn’t getting the whole story.
The appointed day came and my new client arrived. I opened the door and instantly she said she made a mistake in coming and turned to leave. I convinced her to come in, served her some tea, and she said, You don’t know who I am, do you? I know you. I was pretty sure I didn’t know her at all. I certainly never recognized her name. It was possible she knew of me from something in the community since I was a fairly public person.
I suggested a few places where she might have recognized me from, and she told me she had been in a consultant in my Mary Kay sales unit. (I was a sales director for a Mary Kay for a number of years in conjunction with ministry). I was pretty sure she had never been in my unit. Thankfully I maintained a neutral expression because I wasn’t prepared for what she said next.
She told me her previous name. It wasn’t a woman’s name and she wasn’t a woman when she was in my unit. When he was in my unit, he was married with six children and was in the National Guard. He didn’t sell much, but he faithfully attended sales meetings and seemed to love everything about the empowerment and support wo[men] experienced. And then he dropped off the face of the earth. I’d call and his wife said he was deployed somewhere, or … always some reason he wasn’t available. Now I knew.
Here was a person who made a difficult and courageous decision to bring harmony and authenticity into her life. Her entire life and world were completely changed and yet the pain of not changing was far more horrible than the pain of change. Her physical appearance changed, but who she was inside was still the same.
I thought about her when all this Girl Scout cookie mess started. I wondered how things could have been different for her if she was given the opportunity to be the girl she was and be a part of a Girl Scout troop who accepted her for who she was.
If I’ve learned anything from Jesus and being a Christian, it’s that it is not my place to judge anyone, anytime, ever. Of course I can quote all kinds of scripture, but the point remains the same: it is never our place to squelch the humanity of another person. Ever. Period.
Sunday bonus: Journalist Janet Mock has some interesting insight in her blog Fish Food for Thought.