There is currently a consultation underway seeking opinions from members of Girlguiding around the Guide promise. We’ve come a long way since Robert and Agnes B-P penned the Handbook for the Girl Guides, or ‘How Girls Can Help Build Up the Empire’ and it makes sense that we keep sense-checking ourselves. If our mission is to be an organisation that helps form a world we want girls to live in then we need to start from the inside out. Is the promise relevant today? Personally, I have no problem with the promise. I’m a huge fan of the guiding traditions, the rules and regulations, the slightly old-fashioned, slightly pedantic rituals of the horseshoe and campfire. Promising to love my God (note the relatively modern inclusion here of ‘my’ to allow application beyond the Church of England) and to serve my queen and country has always seemed relatively harmless to me, being legally unbinding. I’d have more of an issue with it, if, having made this promise, I was eligible for call-up to the army! So I’m happy to just leave them there, but wouldn’t mind if they were removed. I suppose I might feel a little sad at the loss of a little piece of history. While we have to stay current and modern, there’s something really compelling about an organisation that has run through the lives of generation after generation of women, weaving through them the thread of a unified promise and values.
This week, I had a bit of a ‘promise’ moment:
I’ve recently been thinking very hard about whether to continue as an assistant guide leader. It’s still something I enjoy, but my unit is in the fortunate position of having a surfeit of leaders, and therefore should I wish to take my leave now would be a good time to do so without leaving anyone high and dry. There are lots of things I want to do but don’t have time for, so I had pretty much decided that it was time for me to take a step back from Guiding and just put myself on the reserve bench instead.
Before I could tell the unit leader, however, something happened to change my mind: one of new recruits made her promise. The promise ceremony always touches me. It’s about girls gaining membership into this huge sisterhood of Guides all over the world that echoes back over 100 years and will hopefully keep going hundreds more. It is about girls starting their ‘guiding journey’ and in our unit, after they have made their promise they light a candle to symbolise that. I’m pretty sentimental at the best of times so I love a good metaphor. This week, the girl making her promise was a girl who is exceptionally shy, slightly awkward and ungainly, with slight learning difficulties. And as she made her promise I thought to myself – this is what Guides is all about. It’s about giving girls – all girls – a safe place to develop and grow. It offers them new friendships, with like-minded girls, and new skills that help them build their confidence. The promise binds them to each other in their desire to be good and do good and be worthy of wearing the trefoil.
I realised that I still want to be a part of that. So whatever happens to the promise, let’s just make sure that it remains something inspirational.