Monday, August 22, 2022

A Letter to My Jacket

To some, your navy blue corduroy is stiff and uncomfortable. It is too thick and heavy. It is outdated and unfashionable. To others, you’re just a piece of clothing that FFA members wear. To a shy middle school girl, who was seeking a place to be accepted and a place to get involved, you seemed to be the symbol of opportunity. I didn’t really believe you would really take me to great places or change my life, but I gave you a shot. I could have never imagined how you would push me to become a leader, achiever, & believer in the power of your blue corduroy. Because of you I learned the value of hard work and commitment, and the impact of following my dreams. Because of you, I get to spend this year, speaking of the opportunities that come with FFA; the scholarships, the friends, the awards, and the lifelong skills. 

I gained more than just skills and awards from FFA, I also found a family. For me, FFA has given me teammates that are working to achieve the same goals and people who have become life-long friends that I’ve met from all over the nation. At first, you were meant to simply be a symbol of who members were (with their name on the front) and where they were from (with their chapter on your back). To the thousands of FFA members who now wear you today, you are a perfect display of passion and professionalism. The choice to match your blue corduroy with yellow-gold stitching may seem odd or peculiar, but it all has true significance. Your dark, navy blue color gives a nod to patriotism and our roots, pulling from the colors of Old Glory. The bright, gold champions the passion that FFA members have for all things agriculture.

Since the first time I zipped you up in 6th grade, until this moment when I now wear a jacket with Association across the back, I’ve learned 4 big lessons that I couldn’t have learned while wearing any other jacket. First, I’ve learned how to give back to others. You have given me an understanding of the importance of feeding those in need; I’ve worn you to countless homes over the years as we traveled to deliver boxes of donated food for the holidays. I’ve worn you while families stand in their doorways, paralyzed with shock and gratitude, because they no longer had to worry about feeding their families during Thanksgiving. Many of those people may not have known who we were or remembered our faces, but I guarantee they will forever remember the bright blue-colored corduroy that we were wearing. Through you, I’ve learned dedication & perseverance. There are hundreds of ways to become successful within FFA but nobody ever said they were easy. I’ve learned that one of those ways may be to spend hours on applications and speeches, dedicating my time and energy into something I’m passionate about. You’ve also taught me that sometimes you can still be successful even if I never come close to winning a plaque or award; my hard work and dedication to finish a project is just as successful as taking home a banner or trophy. Because of you, I’ve also learned what it takes to truly be a leader. You have taught me that leadership isn’t about a title, but rather setting an example for others. I can only gain respect from my teammates by growing alongside them, not controlling them. Lastly, you’ve taught me that I can take you off, but I can never stop wearing you. All these years later, you still symbolize much of my identity, but my perspective of what you mean as an FFA jacket, is more than just my name and school. When I wear you, I am reminded that you represent commitment, pride, tradition, & leadership. But more than that, you are a symbol of the community, family, & sense of belonging that every member gains when they zip you up. 

Although I may be just one more student in the "sea of blue jackets" along with the hundreds of thousands registered FFA members, I believe you have given me the special opportunity to make a difference in my life and in the lives of those around me. Without my father’s decision as a freshman, to take a chance on you, an old, dusty blue corduroy jacket, he would have never discovered a passion for FFA and been able to pass that on to me. Thank you for giving my family 32 years of friendships, learning moments, life-long connections, and a reason to believe in the future of agriculture. I may eventually outgrow my time in the jacket, but I will never outgrow the memories and experiences I had while wearing you. For that, and so much more, I thank you.

Forever wearing the jacket,

Mary Jones

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