It's Girl Scout cookie time.
I grew up knowing hunger. Mom and I struggled and often food was scarce. Through the generosity of folks at church, I was far more blessed than others.
But you take a kid who doesn't get to go to birthday parties or have birthday parties... you take a kid who doesn't really do any extra activities... you take a kid who dreamt of having the few spare dollars to go to the school skate party...
You take that kid and you take a generous and thoughtful caretaker... Said caretaker signed me up for Brownies with her daughter.
I didn't last a year before being... dishonorably discharged.
Here's the deal. You take a hungry kid and give her boxes and boxes and boxes of cookies to sell and you send her home with them. What do you think is going to happen??
This was back in the day, before order forms and such. Heck, maybe I'm the reason they went to order forms!
We show up at our Brownie meeting and we've been so pumped for the arrival of THE COOKIES. Selling THE COOKIES is a BIG DEAL and we've been preparing for it forever. The day arrives and we are all giddy with excitement but really not having a clue what it all means.
I came home with a few cases of THE COOKIES.
I dutifully began casing the apartment complex. Door to door, lugging the cookies everywhere I went. And I started hearing about these things called "Thin Mints." I didn't know a thing about them. We certainly didn't but any of these things. If we had a few spare bucks, it went towards shampoo or cheese or bread. Maybe a brownie mix if we were really splurging. But certainly not THE COOKIES.
I sold and sold and sold. And it hit me. I was selling food. Edible and, from what I was hearing, tasty treats.
I grabbed that green box that supposedly contained chocolate and mint in some perfect combination.
I hid in my closet.
I carefully tore open the box and inner packaging. The smell of mint and chocolate smacked my nose and my mouth began to water.
I took a little nibble and suddenly I heard angels singing! I had found heaven! And I had boxes and boxes and boxes of heaven in my living room!
I shoved an entire sleeve of cookies in my mouth. And was full.
I hid the other sleeve and the carton in the closet and went about my day.
A week passed and I had been spending most of my selling time in my closet, finding God. I no longer cared about being a top seller or winning a sales prize. I had found a source of food and it was the most amazing flavor sensation- added bonus.
At our next Brownie meeting, our leader announced that our money was due the next week. All of those boxes of cookies suddenly formed a solid mass in my stomach as I realized that I was in deep shit. I had a collection of empty Thin Mint boxes in my closet and no money to show for it.
The next week is fuzzy- I must have blocked it out. But it was soon realized that my money didn't match with my taken cases of cookies. Busted.
My mom gets called in. She's dumbfounded, has no clue what I've been up to. And I'm mortified, embarrassed. I don't want to tell these people that I ate the cookies because I was hungry. And not in the "nothing is interesting in the fridge" kind of hungry. Hunger and there is nothing there to fill my stomach hungry. I stayed silent until we got home.
I showed my mom the closet.
I don't remember her reaction. I do remember how embarrassed she was to have to go back to the Brownie troop leader and quietly explain that I'd eaten the cookies and that we couldn't afford to pay for them.
The troop leader decided it would be best if I turned in my sash and stepped down from my place in the troop.
Dishonorably discharged for thievery of Thin Mints.
I've relayed this story to moms I know now... moms who are Girl Scout and Brownie leaders and they are always appalled at the choice made by this other leader.
I'm not. Because how could she have known what was going on in my home? The signs were there. But we only see what we choose to see. And she chose to ignore that she rarely saw my mom. She chose to ignore that I never wore new shoes or clothes and that what I did wear was always either too big or too small. She chose to ignore a lot of signs that things were wrong. And I did a damn good job hiding a lot more than just hunger.
So the next time you are walking into the grocery store and see a table of Girl Scouts selling cookies, stop and buy a box and think of me. Then go into the store and buy food to feed your family. And buy some extra cans of veggies, jars of pasta sauce, boxes of spaghetti and donate them to a food pantry.
Because you just might prevent some one's dishonorable discharge from the Brownies.