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?
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?