One of the more ingenious ideas in Socuting is recognition through the advancement program. Humankind has always had some way of marking achievement through decorations of one kind or another; it seems to be a fundamental impulse.
Cub Scouts have no pretense when it comes to badges. They pursue them arduously and uncompromisingly because they want to festoon their blue shirt with as many possible. They will wrap themselves with belt loops, fill their hats with pins, and if there’s no room left on their shirt they’ll add a vest full of gaudy patches and the gaudier the better. If they could sew them on their uniform pants they certainly would.
One of the first things a Cub Scout will do, on meeting an older Scout in uniform, is to ask him how he earned the various badges he is wearing. Once he has learned what they are and how they are achieved he will then resolve to earn them one day.
There very well may come a time that a boy is somewhat embarrassed in wearing his uniform. He’s fighting another fundamental impulse; expressing his individuality by standing out in the crowd by making every effort to not stand out in the crowd (It’s confusing isn’t it?). But as powerful as the vicissitudes of adolescence may be he is still proud of his achievements.
After the embarrassment phase passes he’ll usually care a lot less about who sees him in uniform and even welcome opportunities to show off a bit. His interest in badges is now less about badges as as objects to be earned and more about what they represent; what he has done, what he has become.
He’ll still value these bits of cloth because they bring back memories of good times, of challenges, of blazes along a trail that he had little idea that he was walking at the time or that it would have seemed so short when he reaches the end.
Many of you reading this have a cherished box hidden away some where that is more like a book of memories than a pile of bits of cloth. Anyone can read the achievements they represent but only you can hear the voices and see the faces of those who shared them with you.
We don’t wear them on a shirt as we once did, nor do we need to. We wear them in our minds and hearts every day. Though most of the people we know will never see them or even know that we have them they still notice them in the content of our character.
If you have the privilege of awarding a bit of cloth to a Scout do it knowing that he’ll wear it, in one way or another, for the rest of his life.