Blessed in the USA

by Brandi Freeman

Sometimes I feel like it hits me full force in the face just how fortunate I am. I mean, really – I’m blessed!

One of those moments was when I was flying home from visiting my little sister who is serving in the Peace Corps in Zambia. This trip to Africa was my first trip out of the United States and I absolutely loved my trip, but I was really excited to be going home. It wasn’t until the excitement of my adventure was over that I really began to realize how fortunate I am.

One of the things that jumped out at me in the capital city, Lusaka, Zambia, was the lack of infrastructure. Even in the cities, they didn’t seem to have a well-organized way of dealing with trash. Many people burn their trash or bury it, because a big truck doesn’t come by and carry it off to a landfill once a week. I’ve taken the fact that I have trash service for granted my whole life. When I moved into my house three years ago, all I had to do was call a trash company and set up service and ‘Viola!’ my trash is picked up once a week. I don’t ever have to think about it again. (Yes, I realize not thinking about our waste is a problem in America and probably contributes to why we create more trash than anywhere else in the world, but I’m grateful we have a system even if the system needs improvement!)

I also came to understand what people mean when they say America is the land of opportunity. I used to think that statement was a bit overdramatized, but when I talked to my sister about the problems people face in her village I could see that I was wrong. The life expectancy at birth in Zambia is 37.5 years and the number one underlying cause of death among children is malnutrition.

I know that a lot of people in America struggle and there are children right here in Springfield who don’t even get proper nutrition, but we have opportunities. If you don’t like your situation, there is almost always something you can do to change it in this country. Medical care is available. Education is readily available. The United Way and other organizations offer all kinds of support and programs. Not to even mention the Girl Scouts!

This is a land of opportunity, and when I see how fortunate I am I can’t help but be a bit overwhelmed. After I settle down I usually feel compelled to find new ways to pay it forward and do something to give back. How about you? When you feel blessed, do you feel like giving back to your community or less fortunate parts of the world? What do you do?

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Being Thankful

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and reflect on the bounties that we have. Whether they are large or small, we still need to be thankful.  Some have the glass ½ empty thoughts and are thankful, and others see the glass ½ full and are more gracious with all the little things in their lives.   Personally, I am thankful for the usual; family and friends, health, employment and food on the table. But I am truly thankful to all of the hardworking volunteers and staff that make up Girl Scouting.  So here’s to the volunteers and staff that make Girl Scouting possible!

T- Taking time to see the potential in girls

H- Having time to give to the girls

A-Always helping others

N- Never saying no to volunteering

K- Kindly including all of the girls so they feel important

F- Fulfilling the Girl Scout Promise

U-Using resources wisely

L-Loving Girl Scouts as much as I do

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A Season for Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving was my grandma’s favorite holiday. It is the one holiday that she insisted all 5 of her children (and spouses), 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren must gather in Hoberg, MO to enjoy the Turkey dinner she made for us. Grandma didn’t mind if we moved our Christmas celebration to another day, or if our Easter egg hunt fell on a random Saturday. Thanksgiving, however, was to only be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each and every year.

To honor her request, every year my entire family would squeeze into my grandma’s tiny modular home. We would pray for nice weather so we could send all the kids outside to run around the farm so the adults could find a place to sit.

I have many fond memories of those Thanksgivings with my grandma. But I have to admit, I never looked forward to the actual Thanksgiving meal. The food itself was never very good and if you weren’t at grandmas before 11:00 a.m. there usually wasn’t any food left anyway.

But the Thanksgiving celebration wasn’t about the food or the location, it was about gathering with my family and listening to my grandma tell stories about my mom, aunts and uncles. She would tell silly jokes and laugh at all the kids while stirring up her boxed mashed potatoes.

As I’ve grown up, gotten married, and had children of my own, I realize how special those Thanksgivings really were. And having made a Thanksgiving meal myself, I now understand the actual cost of the meal and why there wasn’t much food and why the mashed potatoes came out of a box.  I understand how blessed my family was.

My family’s Thanksgiving celebrations have changed considerably since my grandma passed away. We no longer gather as one big group and there is no Turkey dinner with boxed mashed potatoes.  Instead, we honor the memory of my grandma and her favorite holiday by helping families in need around the community.

As W.J. Cameron said “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”  As a Girl Scout, I know what it means to take action to make the world a better place.  There are so many ways to give your time and make an impact on someone’s life:

  • Help prepare and serve a meal at a local soup kitchen
  • Collect non-perishable items for a food pantry
  • Make a Thanksgiving food basket for a local family
  • Send a shoebox for soldiers  http://www.operationshoebox.com/
  • Invite others to share  your Thanksgiving feast
  • Make  “thank you” cards for veterans
  • Make Thanksgiving goodie bags for a crisis nursery or women’s shelter

During this wonderful family-filled season of thanks, I challenge you to count your blessings and if you are able, take time to give back to others. “Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” ~Theodore Roosevelt.

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Hurricane Sandy Recovery: How You Can Help

We have all heard about the devastating impact Hurricane Sandy has had on families, businesses and our Girl Scout sisters on the East Coast. Many people remain displaced from their homes and are dealing with the struggles of rebuilding their lives after losing so much. Our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals, families, and Girl Scouts who are dealing with the loss and damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Our own National Headquarters at GSUSA was affected by the storm and only recently reopened. Eight of our sister councils were severely affected by Hurricane Sandy, four in New Jersey and four in New York.

Here at GSMH we can relate to the feelings of loss and grief our neighbors to the east are experiencing.  Our Girl Scout families and neighbors have survived major tornados and devastating floods in the past two years.  We know that many of you are looking for ways to help our Girl Scout sisters just as many of them reached out to help us in our time of need.

In response to all the outpouring of offers to help, GSUSA has lifted fundraising restrictions to enable girls to raise money for Girl Scouting recovery efforts in the eight councils.  This means that interested troops will be able to submit applications for money earning activities to raise funds on behalf of our sister councils in New Jersey and New York.  Please note that all current GSMH money earning guidelines still apply and all activities should be completed by December 31.  If you have any questions about the money earning application process, please contact Angie Robinson Sullivan, chief development officer, at 877-312-4764 x 1343 or via email asullivan@girlscoutsmoheartland.org.

GSUSA has also established a Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund to help address the needs of councils affected by the storm. To give, go to https://donate.girlscouts.org/hurricanerecovery where you will find links to the online giving sites for all eight councils, as well as the giving form for the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund.

Many of you have expressed an interest in donating materials or supplies to help our Girl Scout sisters; unfortunately our sister councils are not currently in a position to receive, process or organize such donations.  A local Girl Scout Troop from Indiana has taken the lead to collect donations of Girl Scout uniforms and insignia to send directly to Girl Scouts who have lost their own uniforms in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. You can find more information on Operation: Be a Sister by visiting their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/OperationBeASister.

Please help share this information with girls, parents and other volunteers in your area and fulfill our Girl Scout Promise to help people at all times.

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Girl Scouts Highest Awards

by Karen Lawrence

What inspires you?  Are you a “glass half empty” or “glass half full” kind of person?  Let me begin by addressing the latter.  I have always been a “glass half empty” kind of gal.  Whether nature or nurture I am not sure, but the pessimist in me has a tendency to creep forward if I’m not careful.  As I get older, I am coming to understand the true value in consciously choosing to see the possibilities of that glass.  When I see how girls can foster changes in their own communities and even nationally or globally, I realize the potential the glass holds.

I am inspired by young women recording the stories of our veterans and submitting the recordings to the Library of Congress.  I am inspired by young women beginning composting programs in their community and writing lesson plans for school science classes on environmental friendliness.  I am inspired by young women starting a service to provide clothing and personal care items as well as literature for rape survivors. I am inspired by young women designing and building a community prayer labyrinth.  I am inspired by young women starting a program to connect youth with the elderly through technology classes.  Do these inspire you?

These are examples of work that the young women of GSMH are doing to earn their Girl Scout Gold Award.  The Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards are the highest awards in Girl Scouting. These awards are true testaments to what can be done to fill the rest of the glasses in the world that need filling.

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