Steve Eaton: Merit badges should be available for adults

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18 2014 9:38 a.m. MST

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I think grown-ups should be given the right to earn merit badges. They wouldn’t be Scout merit badges, but it might be nice if we could wear a sash around our necks just like the Scouts do.

As adults, we have to do difficult things but often there’s no recognition available for us when we win one of life’s daily battles. Merit badges could change that. For example, if you clean out your garage and keep it organized for three months, you could earn the Garage Merit Badge. If you can make it through the day after your pants rip out in the back without anyone noticing, there ought to be a merit badge for that.

In my case, I’d like to get a merit badge every time I get up before 6:30 a.m. or hit my snooze alarm without knocking my alarm clock off my end table.

I would actually prefer to have this kind of topical recognition with stickers on a football helmet, like they do in some college football programs, to acknowledge big plays on the field. In my case, wearing a helmet to work would make me feel more secure and prepared for my workday, but I can see how others with showable hair might be reluctant to don such headgear.

Of course, if you did give out merit badges it would introduce a competitive element into things, and the overachievers would always be flaunting their heavy sashes. The rest of us could counter by going after the “humility” or the “I’m-Above-This-Petty-Competition” Merit Badge. Perhaps one could earn the “Humbling the Proud” Merit Badge by attacking high-achieving co-workers and ripping off their merit badges.

OK, so now I’m seeing there could be some drawbacks to this approach. It might only fuel office politics and make the helmet option mandatory. You’d have to have strict rules in place to keep the top ranking people in the company from hogging all the badges. Can you imagine what would happen if political merit badges were given out in Congress? It would be gridlock on steroids.

I have often worked for organizations where part of my job included preparing the language or planning the event that would honor someone for their vocational success. I often found those people to be worthy of praise because in addition to achieving measurable success in business, they were just good people. Recognizing them was the right thing to do because they would, in turn, give speeches explaining how they discovered the benefits of actually being nice to people.

The sad part is that if there are people who are exceptionally good at things that aren’t easily measured with money or buildings or stock options, they never get recognized. There are two people who clean up in the building I work at that are of the highest caliber. They are always pleasant and very efficient. You can just see in their eyes that they are exceptional people, but it is unlikely anyone will be throwing them a banquet in their honor.

I know a receptionist at a company I visit who was the Michael Jordan of customer service. She made everyone feel important and loved. She was recently let go. If she had just had a helmet, they might have understood what she brought to the table. Who would want to get rid of an all-star who had a helmet covered with stickers?

Maybe I can just make up my own recognition program and make sure the people in my life know they are appreciated. I can’t afford to buy them all helmets, but I’ll bet I could buy some stickers. I could put on a Darth Vader helmet and give out stickers to everyone I appreciate. I could be the “Darth Vader Sticker Fairy.” I think I’ll do that, but not today. … I don’t dare get out of my chair. My pants are ripped.

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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