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Diplomacy is a dish best served by a Girl Scout

Open mouth, insert foot. I’m not exactly known for my diplomacy.  I admit, it’s something I need to work on.  I remember the first time someone pointed this out to me about myself.  I was young and naïve, thinking that is was OK for me to say whatever is on my mind.  And an older woman who I worked with at a local arts organization conferred the advice upon me:  You really need to learn to be more diplomatic.  I didn’t even know what that meant!  Now I realize that it was probably some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.

There is a quote that goes, “Diplomacy is thinking twice before saying nothing.”

As a volunteer Girl Scout leader, I rely on the graciousness of others to be able to fulfill my mission. We have partners in the community whose generosity enables us to bring our programs to our scouts.  These partners are providing meeting space, materials, and places to conduct fundraising activities.  I couldn’t do what I do without these partnerships and I am very grateful for them.

This week, I found myself across a table from one of these partners with whom I needed to resolve a few conflicts. There had been some complaints that we had not cleaned up after ourselves while using their space.  During this meeting, an inference was made that our lack of tidiness was a reflection of the quality of the program we present.

Wait; let me get this straight. So if I leave a mess behind, then I am likely presenting my scouts with a careless, messy program too.  That’s like saying if I have dust bunnies on my floor at home, then I surely do not love my family very much.

I’m not justifying being messy.  We certainly need to be respectful of the space we use and leave it better than we find it.  But that remark stung, and I balked.  “Are you questioning the quality of our program?” I blurted out.  And with that, my diplomatic intentions went out the window.

Anyone who knows me knows how much effort I put into my Girl Scout program. I care about it deeply.  I invest a tremendous amount of time into planning and preparation.  I try to send these young women off with something of value that they can use in their lives, both to be better as individuals and to help make the world a better place.

But there’s the key: my friends KNOW me.  This person, with his inferences, doesn’t know me.  And I doubt he knows much about what Girl Scouts do.

In anticipating this meeting, I had spent a lot of time thinking about how to create compassion between us. How can I help this person to understand my mission and want to work with me rather than reject me?  My younger self would never have taken this approach.  She would have plotted out a defense against these accusations.  But these days I find myself trying harder to understand other people’s perspectives and trying to find common ground.  So I tried my hardest to not show how offended I was by the remark.  I’m not sure I was successful.  But I reached for the information that I had brought along to show what we do in Girl Scouting and how it aligns with his organization’s goals.

To approach our relationships with compassion requires us to be respectful listeners, to set aside judgment and look for the reasons behind other people’s actions. Our willingness to take the time to get to know others helps us to establish a relationship of trust, and to ultimately make connections – to build bridges rather than destroy them.  I’m working on it.

Sometimes I still need to back-peddle and remove that foot from my mouth!  A piece of pumpkin chocolate chip cake would taste much better.  Those of you who know me know I needed some Kitchen Therapy after that meeting!

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cake

cake_collageI found this recipe on King Arthur Flour’s website.  You can find the whole recipe here.  The recipe calls for bran flakes.  And I wasn’t so sure how that would work out.  I was surprised to find that you can’t even tell they’re there!  And I think the flakes thicken the batter and help to suspend the nuts and chips better.  I cut back on the sugar a little, adding only one and a half cups.  This cake is quite moist.  I served it at a school event, and the kids devoured it!

Prepping ingredients is my favorite part of the cooking process.  It’s relaxing.  I get all the ingredients ready before I begin.  I like to be organized!


batter_collageLittle surprise that I also clean up as I go along.  I can’t leave the mess until the end.  I doubt that a clean sink is a sign of the quality of my food, but it makes me happy nonetheless.

I have a very old mixer.  It is a hand-me-down from my Mother.  It’s not a shiny Kitchen Aid.  No stainless steel bowls for me.

mixerIt has small and large glass bowls.  And two mixing blades, instead of one like modern mixers.  And the large glass bowl has a few chips on the bottom.  The cord barely stays connected to the mixer anymore.  Sometimes the cord falls off in the middle of mixing.  Fuses get blown.  But I can’t seem to part with this cherished antique.  Whenever I use it, I know my Mom is with me.  And I think about all the love that has been cooked into our family recipes over the years.

I don’t think the old Sunbeam Mixmaster will last until my own daughter is whipping up cakes and cookies for her family.  But I hope there are a few things here that will become her treasures.  What object of mine will she hold dear?  Maybe it will be my iron.  She’s been using it lately for Perler bead craft projects.

It’s a Black & Decker with a non-stick coating.  I told her that my Mom bought the iron for me when I was in college.  She paid for it with S & H Green Stamps.  I had to explain to my daughter what Green Stamps were.  Now we earn gas extra rewards points at the grocery store.  Back then, the grocery perk was Green Stamps.

finished cakeMy Girl Scouts voted to earn a badge called New Cuisines this year.  Lucky for them that they have leaders who love to cook.  We will be exploring foods from around the world and from our heritage.  It’s an opportunity to learn about other cultures and to get to know each other a little better.  It’s a great tie-in to the ongoing discussions we’ve been having about stereotypes, peer pressure, and friendships.  Food unifies us.  I think I can also teach them a lesson in diplomacy if we invite our community partners to join us and sample our fare.  I’ll let you know how that works out!

© Vulnerable Path, 2014