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“There are three good reasons to buy Girl Scout cookies,” so belted out my great niece-entrepreneur with the red braid and wine-colored glove raised in salute. With her, stands another Junior Girl Scout buddy in fourteen degrees weather in front of the West St. Paul Walmart. “Besides, they’re yummy!” she said, holding up a box of Mint Thins.”

Mary is also standing within a time-honored tradition, the Girl Scouts of America, spelled out in its Promise:  

On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country,
to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.

And its accompanying Law, both composed by its founder Juliette Gordon Low:

I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.

In 1917, five years after the foundation of the GSA, the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, began baking and selling cookies to raise money. Today, its profits supplement three core structures: the NYC national office, Girl Scout Councils, and individual troops. Development of character, confidence, and courage activate the full potential of these young members. My great niece already brims with gusto. What will she become?

The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers. The Girl Scout Handbook.

Poverty with its multi-faceted violence scours psyches of survivors eking out a living—but not all are left in dust-pommeled gangways—throughways for rats—as recounted in Vivian Gibson’s memoir, The Last Children of Mill Creek (2020).

As a pre-teen, she witnessed the 1959 demolition of the historic four-hundred-square-foot neighborhood of twenty thousand underpaid African American workers in St. Louis, Missouri; its benign neglect, for decades, had contributed to the Mill Creek’s “blightedness” that green-lighted government funding for another Interstate for suburban workers, needing faster access to their city jobs. After the quick work of the medicine balls and tractors, Mill Creek’s bombed-out landscape became known as “Hiroshima Flats.”

What could have been a scorching account of disrupted families, churches, and businesses—a viable through invisible community to the world around it—it was told with honesty, humor, replete with wisdom. Life inside those cold-water flats, heated by coal and wood-burning stoves, many with no indoor plumbing, was not without its rules and consequences. Unique patterns of communication developed among families, bonding them for life.

Such experiences had unfolded within the Ross’s 800-square-foot flat in the 2600 block of Bernard Avenue where lived the author’s seven siblings and her parents, their teachers of positive self-regard, resourcefulness, and the value of education and hard work. All moved through daunting hardships—at times—with ease. Detailed accounts jumped off the pages: their Saturday morning “shopping” at Soulard Market, returning home on the streetcar with bags of bruised fruits and vegetables, left on the ground by the farmers. No one was ever hungry in the Ross household.

Vivian Gibson’s unflinching acceptance of her hardscrabble beginnings contributed to the accomplished woman she has become: author, fashion designer, cook, wife, and mother. She has much to teach us in her memoir, The Last Children of Mill Creek.

Available on Amazon

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