Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 4:08 PM
Henley FFA Chapter
Blue Jacket, Gold Standards
Dear Ol’ Blue,
You finally came! Without hesitation, I pulled you out of your package, analyzed every inch of your blue corduroy and tried you on. As I slid my arms into your sleeves the smell of fresh machine-made cotton and plastic packaging wafted over me. I beamed with excitement as your fresh creases ran down my sides. I looked down to my right and there was my name, boldly stitched in Corn Gold, popping significantly against your National Blue ridges, which made up the majority of the rest of your jacket. On my left, your crisp FFA emblem lay over my heart. Down the middle of your front was a brand new shining gold zipper that reached from the bottom to a quarter of the way from the top. Your back exploded with pride, with the state and chapter highlighting the emblem of the organization that would change my life forever. You, my very first Official FFA Jacket, were here and along with you came the beginning of my high school FFA career.
For four years and countless FFA events, the stories I had heard from FFA members before me, were becoming reality. Your cotton-filling pile fabric had lasted day after day, fading and creasing all the while. Now four years later as I lay you on my bed, I stare at you, observing every aspect. I smooth you out with my hands and feel the same but now smoother and softer ridges as before; I recollect the memory that you had once been a stiff, richly colored material and now you are a comfortable, slightly faded and much more lived in and loved version than before. Now under the same name as before lie three laurels; from left to right is my silver Chapter Degree pin and a silver President pin both the size of a nickel, and finally a golden quarter-sized state Tractor Driving award pin. I flip open your sides and inside lay more than fifteen extra pins representing my accomplishments, contest wise and officer wise. As I read the engraving on each shiny golden, silver, and brass nickel and quarter-sized badge, I see many titles that I would have once never imagined would be there; agricultural mechanics, public speaking, marketing plan, and many more, adding over half a pound to your normal weight. These new additions, adoringly and carefully put on you in a perfectly straight line and thoughtfully spaced equally apart, make me realize that just how much I care about a simple cloth that so flawlessly represents my favorite youth organization in the world.
I gently close your sides and I hear the gentle whisper of fabric on fabric and the strong, soft purr of the worn golden zipper as I zip the sides together. After pulling the zipper to the top I continued to smooth the arms out to be able to see your entire impressiveness. Above the precious, hard earned pins, on the left side of your zipper, is my name. As I run my fingers over your slightly frayed Corn golden thread I read the cursive name stitched into the fabric, lying beneath them. It is my name, my identity in this world. It is who I will always be no matter where I go or what I am doing. Because of the FFA, I have set standards for my life, standards that make me the person I am and who I want to be. These values that I have set for myself include being trustworthy, serving others, being of strong character and developing integrity; and these standards that I have set for myself are the best that I can make. Just like the gold stitching on your blue underlying fabric, my standards stand out.
There are more than five hundred thousand members in the National FFA Organization in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. At the National FFA Convention each October, at least one-third of those members meet in Indianapolis, Indiana at the same time. Every single one of us wearing the same thing: black skirts or slacks, white button up shirt, tie or scarf, black shoes, and of course the Official FFA Jacket. Even though we all were dressed similar we were all obviously individuals; some members showing their weaknesses and others their strengths, yet all working together as a team. In this organization our names are one of the only lasting signs of each of our individualities. With this thought I fully begin to understand that my name will forever be a reminder that I am the only person like me, a celebration to my originality and beliefs.
I pick you up, and turned you over. At the top, stitched thickly in the same Corn gold thread as the front, is the name of my state, “Oregon.” At the bottom of your back is the same type of stitching as the state name, there is sewn the name “Henley.” This name means so much to me. It’s where I’m from, the first friends I made are from, and the family that loves me is from. But, one thing that this name means has nothing to do with anyone but myself. That is the courage to push myself outside my comfort zone, so that I may reach my dreams starting with having the heart and dedication to run for a chapter office. I believe in being more than what’s expected, and by being a chapter officer, and proudly representing the Henley FFA Chapter of the Oregon FFA Association, those expectations were exceeded and it has also advanced me one step closer to my dream of becoming an Oregon FFA State Officer.
Throughout my life, there have been so many changes, and somehow God has found a way to hold me together; and when I look at you, my very first and so far only Official FFA Jacket, there may be gold embellishments and awards; there may be titles, and emblems, but there will only be one thing that stays the same no matter what a person adds or takes away. That one thing will always be my National Blue corduroy jacket. As I lovingly pick you up I slide a plastic, stark white hanger under your shoulders and put you into my personalized FFA garment bag to carry to my door. And as I hang the bag on the back of my door I continue thinking of all the memories I have made while wearing you, my very own, one of a kind jacket. The friends, the laughs, the cries, the trips, and the people I have been inspired by and the people I hope I have inspired. I purchased you for fifty-two dollars, and now it seems like you should have cost me much more. Who would have known that a jacket could change a life? What you represent changed my life and countless other FFA members who zip up a blue corduroy jacket. We will forever understand the impact and the influence that you, simply an article of clothing, can have. And even though my most paramount and possibly last Official FFA Jacket are put away for right now, I will proudly don my invisible FFA jacket and zip it up with conviction and pride.
Until we meet again,