The first Thursday of each month, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley Executive Director Beach Pace will write a featured blog post.
This month, Beach reflects on the importance of being surrounded by a culture of service.
When I was about 7 years old I was playing in my backyard and saw a plane fly overhead. I thought of how amazing it would be to be able to fly or to even be associated with flying.
I was immediately inspired and ran in to tell my Mom the big news. “Mom!” I said. “I want to marry a pilot!” In addition to the commentary on societal norms at the time, my mother was having none of that.
She walked over to me with a very concerned look on her face, knelt down directly in front of me put her hands on my shoulders and gripped me hard. In a loving but stern voice she said,
“No honey. BE the pilot. BE the pilot. Don’t marry what you want, BE what you want.”
She let her grip go, stood and walked back to washing the dishes. Then, over her shoulder she said “…and you may want to re-think that… pilots are simply glorified bus drivers. You have to love what you do and, for you, being a pilot would get boring.”
Obviously, my Mom was a pretty blunt and practical person. I grew up in a culture of pragmatic idealism. I often heard comments about following my dreams and going to college followed by advice on how I would pay for all of it.
I also grew up in a culture of service. My father was a very active member of the local Rotary Club. We were often at fundraisers and events that supported our community. My mother was a PTA president and active in local women’s clubs. I didn’t know it at the time but I was surrounded by people who cared for others and who made community service a part of their daily lives.
I was encircled by “pilots” for our community, people who felt it was their innate duty as human beings to give back and make a difference. As I matriculated through high school it was clear to me that military service was the best route to follow my dreams of college and world travel while still being able to serve my country.
I graduated high school in 1987 and, except for my parents and two teachers; most of my friends and superiors were perplexed as to why I would join the service. They thought it was a waste of my talents. Also, in the 80’s, the concept of “idealism” was a bit of a joke. It was the “me” generation and it was shaped by movies like the original “Wall Street” and the quickly expanding business climate of the Reagan era. The message was: get rich at any cost.
Looking back, I am proud to have eschewed the zeitgeist of the 80’s and to have joined other like-minded individuals in the solidarity and fellowship of service. I am proud to have chosen to be a “pilot” for my country and still be a “pilot” for my community.
I challenge you to do the same.