"My legs will be broken before I learn to dive off the high dive!"
That entry in my Girl Scout diary reminds me how difficult it was to complete the Girl Scout swimming badge. The summer I turned 11 years old, I worked very hard on all the requirements for the badge. I was not a "swimmer" but like many kids my age in California, I had learned to swim so I wouldn't accidentally drown. We spent a lot of time at the beach, the lake and the swimming pool, so knowing how to swim was important. Even though I did not have "technique" the swimming badge was something I could earn.
I remember standing on the board of the "high dive" at our local public swimming pool. It seemed so very high. It didn't seem high when I was jumping off doing cannon ball splashes and other silly things, but standing there thinking about going head first made it seem at least a mile high!
I also had to swim laps in the pool for another portion of the badge. My childhood friend across the street had a swimming pool and he would coach me to improve my technique and breathing. The pool seemed at least a mile long. I do not remember how many laps were required by the badge but it was hard to do and it took weeks of practice before I could finish that last lap and get signed off on that requirement.
I have no idea how many times I would practice the high dive, smacking my legs hard on the water below. It was an effort that finally paid off. I did it! Eventually, I completed all the requirements of the badge and it was one of my proudest moments to have it awarded.
The swimming badge was one of my best memories of Girl Scouts. I learned that if I kept trying, I could eventually succeed. It was very difficult and made me very proud. I also learned how to perform "artificial respiration". We now call that "rescue breathing". It was something that I never had to use, but at 11 I would have been able to save someone from a near drowning if I had to. I think everyone should be trained to use rescue breathing and CPR. You many never need to use it, but it could mean the difference of life or death if needed. Many kids have saved people, by knowing what to do in an emergency. Scouting was where I learned it first.
Scouting was an opportunity for many other firsts for me. As a Girl Scout, I camped outdoors for the first time. I remember it was at classmate, Roxanne Barker's house. I think we stayed awake most of the night, but it was great fun to sleep in tents and sleeping bags.
I also got to spend a week or two at Girl Scout summer camp. It was so much fun! At camp, I got to go horseback riding for the very first time. I will never forget that. The horse seemed huge! There was one no-nonsense counselor who many of the girls thought was mean and strict. I remember she asked me if I had been riding horses for a long time. I told her it was my first time and she said I looked like a natural, like I had been taking lessons for years. What a fantastic ride I had that day! Many years later, I would wonder if she just saw how scared I was and knew what to say to take away the fear. Did she really think I was good? From then on, I loved horses and rode them any chance I could! She said I was a natural!
Forty years later, the words of the Girl Scout pledge stay in my heart. I remember the solemn beginnings of each meeting. "On my honor, I will try ..."
Scouting taught me to always try and most important ... scouting taught me to believe in myself!
Thank you to scout leaders everywhere for all you do!
23 March 2002
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