All of us have objects in our lives that convey meaning and significance. These objects tell stories about our values and how we acquired them. The stories remind us that values are not abstractions, but emotionally invested principles that shape our lives.
So, what values are conveyed in an Eagle Scout badge?
This week, OurValues is publishing a five-part series about a new activity guide for United America called Family Treasures. That free guide explains how to organize this experience for your class or small group. In this OurValues series of columns, we’re sharing some of our favorite stories participants have told us. Please, feel free to share this week’s stories with friends. The best way to start your own series is to show others these examples of what you might discover in your community.
In this Family Treasures exercise, leaders ask each person to bring a physical object that conveys their values and how they acquired them growing up. At this point, we’ve heard many fascinating stories that have surfaced in classes and small groups. The stories are a mixture of love, poignancy, joy, sadness, hope, and resilience amidst trials and tribulations. Nearly all of them are inspirational.
One of our favorites was told by Jim Jeffries who showed the group his Eagle Scout badge.
First, a little background: Eagle Scout is the highest attainable rank in the Boy Scouts of America. The requirements are arduous, and all must be completed before the boy turns 18 years of age. The requirements, according to the BSA site, include “merit badges, service project, active participation, Scout spirit, position of responsibility, and unit leader conference.” Only about 5% of Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts.
Leaders in many fields of American life proudly list, among their accomplishments, having earned the badge, including more than 40 U.S. astronauts, outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
What values does an Eagle Scout learn? There are many. Here’s Jim’s story: He was a Boy Scout in Maryland, where they stressed camping and backpacking. “When you start as an 11 year old, and do all that stuff,” Jim said, “it really gives you a sense of independence and self-confidence.”
When he was a young teen, Jim and friends would take some significant backpacking trips to the White Mountains. “You really learn a lot when you throw a 50-pound pack on your back and you start walking through the woods for a week and you come out on the other end. You can get hurt out there if you are not careful, so it really teaches you a lot of things.”
I recall hiking (and surviving) the Franconia Ridge Trail in the White Mountains, and I know what Jim is talking about.
So, for Jim, his Eagle Badge represents the core American values of self-reliance and achievement.
This week, I am asking all readers of OurValues:
What object in your life tells a story about your values?
Share your story!
The purpose of the OurValues Project and the United America book is to get Americans talking with each other—friends, neighbors and even total strangers who may enjoy gathering to talk about the values that unite us. That’s a dramatic and refreshing change for a lot of us, these days.
Please, share this week’s series with friends on Facebook or by Email. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them in your small group to spark discussion. If you have a moment right now, add a comment below.