These are unprecedented times, times that 20 years from now, we will look back and say remember when… I am taking pictures of swing sets taped up hoping I never see it again. The adjectives to describe today are hard to find and much of how we see the world depends on where we sit with so many families and lives impacted in different ways. It is hard to think of a leadership blog that speaks to our current challenges. When teaching leadership and needing videos to highlight my points, the very best Hollywood leadership vignettes come from the fantasy world—the epic Lord of the Rings is rich with leadership stories. The series gives so many stark examples of good and bad leadership that makes it easy to highlight to kids and particularly high school students love it much having grown up with Hobbits. One quote in particular I embrace during hard times…
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
It is a heroic quote that speaks to not lamenting the past but moving forward. Isn't about worrying about getting knocked down six times, but getting up seven times. I can't even begin to empathize in a reasonable way to our 2020 seniors missing graduation or those small businesses that have gone under. But Gandalf’s wisdom reminds me that I must focus not on the problem, but on solutions. I often lament the hard timing my Girl Scout Council has found itself, but I need to give more energy to helping us overcome the challenges. I faced a similar set of circumstances my final years in the military when sequester and government shutdown gutted funding for my Air Force base and my final year was all about “no” and trying to hold onto mission capability despite 1/3 less finding. As a person who likes to say “yes” to expanding possibility, staying optimistic and positive was an uphill climb. It did impact my decision to retire.
A recent article in the Washington Post speaking to how Girl Scouts helped in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic shows that Juliette Gordon Low also believed in the philosophy to do your best in the times given to us. The Spanish Flu gutted nations and impacted World War I, blunting offensives as soldiers could not carry on being so sick. The difference with this flu from today’s COVID pandemic is it went after young people, teenagers and those in their twenties. With this bleak environment, Juliette Gordon Low did not hold back, but asked her new Girl Scouts to help out in food kitchens. Many of her Girl Scouts were recent college graduates, in the demographic of being threatened. Her movement was still nascent and could have foundered on the flu. Juliette decided it was more important to help and encouraged her movement to lift a helping hand. She decided to do the best Girl Scouts could do with the time given them, and it fortunately worked as the Washington Post article indicates.
As we come together for another annual meeting, I commit our staff to do the best we can with the time that is given us, understanding we can only lament so long about the challenges we do face. Author Roz Inga once said “You need to be buried deep in the dirt before you can find your bloom.” I do hope when we look back we see that our Council continues to bloom despite the high challenges before us. I do have faith. Juliette believed in the specialness of her movement she invented six years before the flu arrived on the scene. 108 years later, I have faith in our volunteers and our Girl Scouts. They are special and if we can bloom again, it will be on their watch. Switching Hollywood movies, Star Wars Yoda reminds us “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Or volunteers are doers.
Finishing with my Lord of Rings theme, Frodo listened to Gandalf but it only lasted so long. He fell into despair and his friend Sam had to wake him back up to keep trying. Sam implores Frodo with this famous quote: “There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for.” While this tale is fictional, the words do resonate with us today during this pandemic. Girl Scouts are doers of good. They are worth fighting for and our Council is absolutely committed to coming out of this crisis blooming. We follow in Juliette’s bold footsteps. That is the only direction we could go. Lord of the Rings had a happy ending. Our real life story will too, but it is up to us to write it. “The work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”
--Brian Newberry, GSEWNI CEO