It rained last night. It was a driving downpour, but as it subsided and I lay awake, I remembered when I was a kid and loved sleeping in a tent, especially when a gentle rain fell at night. To this day, I can’t think of a more soothing sound. I’ve tried buying CDs of water sounds, but the recordings never came to my memory. The saddest part is I’ll probably never hear the true sound of water falling on a canvas tent again because now I do my best camping at the Holiday Inn.
Growing up in a small town in the 1950’s was so different from today. We never locked our doors. Neighbors knew each other and offered a helping hand when it was needed. Everybody, with the exception of a few, were on the same social economic status. Moms stayed home with their kids and most Dads went off to work in factories. Living like this was not idyllic, but it was stable. It was also safe.
During the school year, I had homework and Girl Scouts to keep me busy. The same girls I went to school with were the same girls in Troop #73. Together we learned about the outdoors and all its wonders and dangers. We learned how to build fires and how to cook on them. We learned to respect nature and never pick wild flowers. We learned how to have fun without spending money. We told ghost stories around a campfire and sang songs all of the time. In fact, by the time I was in seventh grade, we knew so many songs, we sang from our school to Madison, Wisconsin –about 70 miles — without repeating a tune!
Besides the fun activities, we always had service projects to do. At Christmastime we caroled at the homes of older people we called, “Shut-Ins,” and let a box of homemade cookies as our gift. We made party favors to brighten up the food trays for people who found themselves in a nursing home. We made lap blankets that looked like miniature quilts for the same seniors when we were in high school.
Growing up as a scout was the best part of my young life. What we gave was only a portion of what we received. One wonderful outcome of these years was learning how to solve problems creatively. If we didn’t have what we needed, we improvised a solution. We experienced sales and fund raising. We learned how to live within our budget. No one was allowed to fall back on their dues because it affected all of us. We learned how to plan in order to get things done on time. We also learned the world didn’t revolve around us. We realized we were just a small specks in something much larger. Best of all, we all walked away as adults with friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
Of course, while we were sweating over a hot fire in the summer or hiking in the rain and cold because we were told to do so by our leaders, we had no idea of how the skills and experiences would benefit us when we became adults. We grumbled. We complained our assigned tasks were stupid and wished we were swimming instead of cleaning the latrine. We were kids. We had the right to snark, but the responsibility to obey orders.
Now, when I watch kids isolated from each other with their electronic devices standing in as a best friend, I worry about them. They will argue that they are more connected than I ever hoped to be. But a generation who would rather text each other from across the room instead of walking over and talking to them — well, I just don’t get it. Perhaps I’m old, but it seems a lonely existence to me. No computer or Ipad or Smart Phone can replace giggling in the dark with friends while a gentle rain drops on a canvas tent. The real thing just can be duplicated. Best of all, the real thing will be remembered for a lifetime.