Valuable Objects: What’s the significance of an Eagle Scout badge?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects
Jim Jeffries talks to the group about the values symbolized in his Eagle Scout badge.

Jim Jeffries talks to the group about the values symbolized in his Eagle Scout badge.

Jim Jeffries talks about his Eagle Scout BadgeAll 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?

Yesterday, OurValues staff met with a group of men and women to discuss values—and the objects that signify them. We asked each person to bring a physical object that conveyed their values and how they acquired them growing up. The stories they told were a mixture of love, poignancy, joy, sadness, hope, and resilience amidst trials and tribulations. All were inspirational.

We’ll discuss some of their stories this week, starting with Jim Jeffries and 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 inviting all readers of OurValues:

What object in your life tells a story about your values?

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Categories: Self-Reliance

Valuable Objects: Missing photographs, missing memories?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects

Jennifer Pollard with photo of her great grandmotherAmericans today are the most photographed people in history. Smart phones and Facebook make it easy to capture daily images of our lives and share them. Go back a generation or two, however, and photographs are rare. Many are missing, representing gaps in the stories of our families.

Do you have a photographic gap in yours?

Here’s a story of one such gap: Jennifer Pollard’s family is from Barbados, the tiny island nation just north of South America. Jennifer participated in our recent group discussion on objects and the values they signify. She showed a photograph of her Great Grandmother Cecelia. This photo is a valuable object. But the missing photograph is one of her Uncle Arlington, one of her Great Grandmother’s 11 children. Seven immigrated to America, and her uncle was the first. As Jennifer told us, “He came through Ellis Island, and he started a dry cleaning business in New York.”

As she told her story, she reflected that the activity of sharing such valuable objects can be difficult. “You realize how many gaps you have about your family,” she said. “I did meet my Uncle Arlington and some of his siblings—but my regret is that I didn’t get to know them more and to meet those whom I didn’t get to meet. I wish that they had lived longer so I would have been able to learn more about them. … A part of me is missing because I don’t have a decent knowledge of my great aunts and great uncle.”

Arlington’s story is a classic immigrant story of people coming here to make a better life for themselves and their families. His example illustrates the values of achievement, hard work, and enterprise.

Do you have a story like Jennifer’s?

Is there a gap in your family knowledge?

What object would you use to tell the story of your values and how you got them?

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Categories: Getting AheadSelf-Reliance

Valuable Objects: Who do you think you are?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects

Alice Nuttall and her family scrapbookHave you watched the American genealogy documentary, Who Do You Think You Are? Each episode features a celebrity who traces his or her family tree. Sometimes surprising branches are uncovered—and that kind of discovery is not limited to celebrities’ genealogies. Many men and women dig back into the past and discover unexpected ancestors.

Has your family tree surprised you?

Alice Nuttall shared an interfaith surprise she discovered in her family tree. Alice was among a group of adults convened this week by OurValues staff to discuss core values. Each participant brought an object that signified an important value for the person’s family. Alice told us of the 30 years of labor that went into the construction of her family tree, now with over 4,000 people, many of whom trace their roots to Scotland. All were “people of faith,” she said. “They were Presbyterians.” On her mother’s side and father’s side, “everybody was active in the church.”

She showed the group a thick booklet with a plaid cover, stuffed with even more notes, photocopies and clippings as the research continues. During this digging, Alice explained to the group: “I even found out that, on my Dad’s side, his great-grandfather was actually Jewish. We never knew about all the Jewish ancestors!”

With excitement, she told us how she had found information online about her Jewish ancestors, including images of tombstones written in Hebrew. She described with pride how both her Christian and Jewish ancestors were people of faith. The Jewish ancestors were just as community minded as the Christian relatives and pitched in, for example, to help organize a Jewish congregation and cemetery, as well.

Is your family tree one of your valuable objects?

Does your family story contain surprises?

What object would you select to tell the story of your values and how you got them?

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Categories: Equal OpportunitiesRespect

Valuable Objects: How much value is there in your paycheck?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects

Kathy Macdonald family display is shared by Our Values groupValues come to life when we tell the stories behind the values. This week, I am sharing family stories men and women have been telling me in an in-person pilot project we’ve been undertaking. As we hear the family stories—we understand the importance of the values in new ways. Often, there are objects connected to these family stories—objects that may be big or small, mundane or rare. The more important the value and the family story—the more precious the object becomes.

Today, we consider a common form of money—a paycheck, which conveys priceless meaning.

Kathy MacDonald, a participant in our discussion session this week on values, brought in both a paycheck and a chunk of copper ore—and told us a story from 1910.

The ore was mined by her grandfather, and the paycheck was his, as well. All her grandparents lived in mining communities in Cornwall, England, and brought their skills to upper Michigan. The check was for $58.60, which was probably a month’s wage.

“There’s lots of history around it,” said Kathy. “Like many others, they understood machinery. It was only a few years after this that Ford began paying outrageous wages in the Detroit area, so they came down to work at Ford’s factory. It was the beginning of their second life.”

Kathy’s father was born in 1917, but only a few years later, his mother perished in a great flu epidemic. So, Kathy said, these objects represent “lots of bits of American history woven into them.”

What does a paycheck in 2013 signify?

What object tells a story of your values and how you got them?

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Categories: Getting AheadSelf-Reliance

Valuable Objects: The secret of pink ice cream …

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects

Benjamin Crumm holds a family pink homemade ice cream recipe cardValues can seem lofty and abstract. They come to earth when we talk about our “valuable objects”—objects with stories behind them that convey our values and how we got them.

Could a recipe for pink ice cream be one of those objects?

This week, OurValues staff met with a group of men and women to discuss values and the objects that signify them. So far, we’ve heard stories behind an assortment of valuable objects—an Eagle Scout badge, an old Barbadian photo, a genealogical scrapbook, and a chunk of copper ore with a 1910 paycheck. We complete the week by looking at an old recipe card for ice cream and the story it contains.

Benjamin Crumm brought his Great-Grandmother’s recipe card for ice cream. A distinctive feature of her ice cream was its color—pink. “The value of this to me isn’t really the recipe itself,” said Ben. The value lies in when it was made and why. “We only ever made this at family gatherings. The value here is that it is very important to have family but also to get together and talk and meet and have fun—and share ice cream.”

“We still make it today and still get together,” said Ben. And, he noted, we still “make it pink.”

Does your family have its own version of pink ice cream?

If you participated in one of our sessions, what valuable object would you bring in?

What story would it tell?

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Categories: Uncategorized