The experience was weird and wonderful in all kinds of ways.
- 8,000 women and girls + 150 men and boys. Draw your own conclusions.
- One roughly 11 year old girl yelled out to me, "Hey! Hey you! You. You. You. you.......lady in black..." (I wear black nearly every day. Don't be alarmed.) "...How are you?" I looked around, realized she was talking to me and responded, "I'm well. Thanks for asking. By the way, my name's Nila." She said, "Well, hi there, Lila. My name's EM-UH-LEEEEEE!" Me: "Nice to meet you, Emily." Her friend yelled to me, "oh, oh, oh, my name's Isabel. What's your name?" Me: "Hi, Isabel. Nila. With a N." Emily and Isabel together: "ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. NILA!!!! Nila! Nila! Have fun Nila." Wow. Relating this story to my husband, I said it was like enthusiasm slipping toward utter weirdness. Still, I appreciate their excitement. These girls were HYPED UP and having fun! There wasn't a television, computer, cell phone or gaming system in sight.
- Another much less hyper 11ish girl walked up to me and asked, "Wanna swap?" Remember, these girls are from all over the country, some international. Apparently they buy or make some sort of patch they can swap with other girls as a way to "collect" and visualize all the different people they've met. Kind of a cool thing to do, I think. Anyway, I replied, "oh I'm sorry, I don't have a thing." (Except my Barack Obama button which I was NOT giving up...) Girl said, "oh, that's okay, I'll give you something anyway. Where are you from?" And she handed me a bandage shaped magnet bearing the advertising of a physician's practice in Wisconsin. I said, "Indianapolis. Oh...this is...nice. Thank you." She told me, "yeah, earlier I scratched myself and tried to use one of those bandages but it just wouldn't stick." Okay, a little ironic humor from the the 11 year old. I can handle it. One of her troop sisters handed me a little foam elephant on a piece of paper with her name and troop number on the back. The "patch" came complete with a safety pin. So, I did the fun thing and pinned it to my shirt, right next to Senator Obama. A nice gift. But not THE gift in my post title.
- The Broad Ripple high school band played "25 or 6 to 4" by Chicago while the American, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and the Girl Scouts USA flags were raised. Seriously? So, is a song about writing a song from 1970 a better choice than, say, the national anthem? Hmmmmm. Don't worry, we recited the pledge of allegiance and sang both the national anthem and God Bless America.
- There was a pairs exercise. In execution, I think it was a bit rough. But the concept was awesome. In advance a card with an inspirational quote and three questions had been placed on each seat. All, 8,150 (or so) of us were encouraged to find a person we don't know and then use the questions to prompt a story from our partner. I sort of hung back since I was really only there as an observer, but at the last minute one lost little soul darted around desperately looking for someone to be her partner. I'm so glad I asked her to sit with me. My new friend India was probably about in that same 11 year old age range. It turns out she also lives in Indianapolis and is home-schooled. I gathered from some things she said that she's developmentally disabled in some way and is more than likely adopted into a large, blended family. While she didn't follow the proscribed directions, she was an absolute delight. One of the three questions was something like, "who are the people who helped you become a leader." She said, "oh, I can't be a leader. I'm too young." I encouraged her to think about other ways she might be a leader. She looked right into my eyes, absorbed every word and then told how she is a leader in her family by helping take care of things. With some time left over, I asked her to read her quote to me. Then she wanted to hear mine. It said "A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself. - Maya Angelou." India paused for a moment and quietly and very seriously said, "oh...I really like that. It says I can just be me." I gave her the Authenticity card. At the end of the exercise, the emcee gave us instructions on how to text the essence (from five choices) of the story we heard from our partner. India asked me, "what was mine?" I told her that "I heard courage in your story." She looked at me, "yours is 'empowering.'"