A guest rant from Sandra Knauf.
I was a real jerk last February 13th. Maybe it was
inevitable—after weeks doing financial aid paperwork for our daughter’s college
applications and our taxes, I’d had no time to even think about doing anything
fun, like gardening. But I was not planning to be mean when I saw the Girl
Scouts on the steps of our neighborhood library. In fact, I was cheery as I
chirped to my teen daughters Zora and Lily, “We should buy your dad a box of
Mint Thin Girl Scout cookies for Valentine’s Day!”
Once I got to the table, though, suddenly the desire to
support this American ritual was colored by something else. These cookies were
bad for you and the temptation, the pressure, to buy them was everywhere. A
friend had just said something the week before—how families who sell these
cookies almost always over-indulge, both parents and children gaining empty
calories and reinforcing the sugar habit. These damn cookies, I thought, out
there for weeks, tempting all to buy, buy, BUY!
That’s when I made the first snarky remark. “Same price as
last year, but smaller boxes.” Everyone politely ignored that rudeness,
but then, looking at the back of the box, I added, “Artificial ingredients,
hydrogenated oil. Yuk.”
Truly, I do not usually behave like this. I think there was
a full moon too. My daughters cringed, the father of the girls glared
like he could kill me. I ignored them. And then I bought a box!
As we walked away, Lily said, “Mom, you were such an
asshole.” The evil spell lifted. OMG, I was! A huge one! We got in the car. “Maybe I should go
apologize.” “Don’t you dare go back!” both daughters cried, fearing more
Although Lily pointed out the cookies also used palm oil
(palm oil!), my conscience ached for days. How could I diss the Girl Scouts? They
do good work! They set good examples! The amazing women who have been in Girl
Scouts include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and Martha Stewart. Girls
are taught useful skills; self-esteem is bolstered. This group is respectful of
different religions and beliefs. They fully accept people with different sexual
orientations . . . what was wrong with me?!?
After thinking it over I realized the roots of my ill will went
deep. I’d been channeling all those kids—mine included—coming to our doors over
the years, selling things we didn’t need or want. Paraffin candles, candy,
cookies, stuffed animals made in China, discount cards for buying junk food at
fast food franchises. This is what we, in America, make our kids peddle. For
But then I remembered a school fundraiser from my elementary
school days. It was small town Missouri in the mid 1970s and I was going
door to door, at exactly this time of year selling . . . seeds! I
remember it clearly, the long list of seeds to choose from: vegetables,
flowers, and herbs in beautiful packages with colorful art. And you know what?
When I came to the door many were even damn glad to see me! I remember little
old ladies (who probably weren’t much older than I am now) saying, “I’ve been
wondering when you’d be by. I want to get the garden going.”
Imagine—trading four dollar boxes of cookies made with palm
oil, hydrogenated oil, and artificial flavorings, for something that we can
USE. That’s healthy in every way. Imagine Girl Scouts selling organic non-GMO
seeds, unusual seeds, maybe seeds in partnerships with other Girl Scouts around
the world, seeds that can grow beautiful bouquets of flowers, vegetables to
eat. Seeds that can urge people to get off their couches, drop those cookies,
grab a shovel and create something fabulous! Fundraising that can be positive
for everyone and every living thing.
I can see it now, and it can happen! After all, these girls
can do anything—they’re Girl Scouts.