On My Honor, I Will Try

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

I spread the cookie-order forms flat on the kitchen table, smooth the wrinkles and do some quick figuring.

I’m no math whiz, but I know improbability when I see it. I exhale one long breath, lay down my pen and look over the rims of my glasses at the two-person sales force across the table.

They are flashing their toothiest Girl Scout grins. One is wearing pigtails. I drum my fingers on the table.

How am I going to break it to them?

They have determined to each sell 1,000 boxes of cookies by March. In Girl Scout world, reaching a sales goal of this magnitude is something like being listed in the Fortune 500. And of course, it comes with a free Apple iPod Touch and the coveted title of “Mega Seller.”

I do some more figuring.

Statistically speaking, this would require half of all households in our rural county to purchase one box of cookies from our girls.

My oldest Scout slides a pencil behind her ear and widens her eyes, which suddenly look like a pair of Thin Mints resting atop her cheeks.

“Taylor sold, like, 503 boxes last year, Mom. You should have seen it!”

Naturally, Taylor is the daughter of the Troop leader.

I’m just about to explain my logic, when my brain rewinds. In the playback, I’m ten years old again. I remember all of it: the Girl Scout sash with sewn-on merit badges, the pressed uniform, the orange necktie, the outlandish sales-goal. I would bend headfirst into bitter winter winds, undeterred in my door-to-door sales drive. I would will the ink in my Bic pen not to freeze up because, after all, I was doing good in the name of the Girl Scouts of America.

And, of course, I wanted to take a wild stab at winning an eight-track player or whatever the grand-prize was.

I’m pretty sure I knocked on every door in our little Iowa town that year. Scratch that. Almost every door. I always skipped Fluorine, who shared an apartment with her pet monkey and who mistakenly believed every year that she’d won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. I was afraid to knock, thinking she’d be exceedingly disappointed to find a scrawny Girl Scout at her door instead of Ed McMahon.

All those years, I never once met my sales goal. But never did I feel like a failure. Perhaps there’s something magical about dreaming big, against all odds. I wonder if the rare chance of accomplishing what we’ve set out to do is sometimes just enough to buoy the soul.

Maybe that’s why I find myself where you see me now – unwilling to talk my girls down from their lofty ambitions.

According to my figuring, my Girl Scouts will fall about 900 boxes short of their goal.

Some of the dads in the neighborhood put their heads together and determined that all of the Girl Scouts should consider combining their orders. Then, they could share the Apple iPod Touch.

But my girls will have none of that.

I do think the oldest Scout in the house has begun to sense that her goal hovers a bit high. Just yesterday, I saw her eyeing a photograph of the “Eco-Wood Owl Necklace,” a shiny gold owl pendant threaded onto a blue string. The necklace is awarded to anyone who sells at least 50 boxes.

But you never know what can happen. After all, she’s sold 35 boxes so far. And it’s only February.

Image by lookslikeamy, used with permission via Flickr. Post by Jennifer Dukes Lee.