Being of Service

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Even though I was only 10 years old at the time, these immortal words have resonated in my mind since John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, January 20, 1961. I do believe having learned the concept of being of service way back then was what inspired me to ask how I could give back, be it to the community I live in, my workplace, home or any organization which I find myself involved with, and that includes NASA. When I was in school, the last thing we were interested in was asking how we could help the school teach us. About the only time a student felt helpful was when he or she was asked to help pass out or collect test sheets.

In retrospect, I take great pleasure in learning of a classmate who had gone off to college only to return to our hometown to teach at a local school from where we came. I see it as the ultimate method of giving back, especially to the very community where we grew up. If that isn’t inspirational, I don’t know what is.

Can you imagine how things would be if NASA HPDE drivers were satisfied with just getting through the day without truly learning anything? That makes me curious about what makes a student eager to learn, to want to emulate a sponge, hoping to soak up knowledge with which to be as proficient as possible on a given subject on any given day? What is it that motivates them to want to advance from one level to the next?

It’s desire. It’s the excitement, of course, but it’s also fulfilling one’s dreams, the hope to do what we watched others do when we were younger, and the best part is actually reaching that feeling of accomplishment as each student sees his or her own lap times improve. It’s the feeling of self confidence when the light bulb finally comes on as lessons ultimately sink in and instructions begin to make sense.

As was true each time I found myself enlightened when learning about a classmate who gave back to the place they came from, whether it was their hometown school, their workplace or wherever, I am equally enlightened each time I sit at the back of a NASA classroom and listen as instructors reach deep within while speaking intently to a classroom of students. Many times I sit quietly smiling with great satisfaction and pride as I listen to NASA instructors, many of whom I sat through the very same downloads with some years ago, in many cases having raced door to door with. Can anything be more fulfilling than that? Can anything be more full circle than that? I think not.

So the next time you are reflecting on your racing involvement and all that it has given you, how fun and rewarding it has been, ask yourself, “What can I do for NASA?” You may be surprised to learn how many areas there are within NASA’s organization, where you too could help and yes even enlighten others. So the next time you’re at a NASA event, take the time to ask around where you can be of assistance. There are lots of places where you can help make a difference. Who knows? Maybe someday you’ll pull up a chair next to mine at the rear of a classroom and smile with me.

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