Kids offer simple reminder of "Service Before Self"

  • Published
  • By Col. Greg Touhill
  • 81st Training Wing commander
Robert Fulghum authored a book cleverly titled, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." In this entertaining and informative book, Mr. Fulghum discussed the life's lessons he learned as a child and how they aptly apply to adult life; things such as saying please and thank you, washing your hands before dinner, and making time to play transcend the march of time. 

This weekend, I had a reminder of the lessons from Fulghum's book as well as "Service Before Self" during an event at Thrower Park. The Keesler Spouses Club (KSC), aided by the Airman and Family Readiness Center, hosted an outdoor movie night at the Thrower Park family housing area on Friday night. The residents were treated to ice cream sundaes and popcorn, a "bouncy castle" for the kids, and the movie "Ratatouille" on a really big outdoor screen. It was a great event enjoyed by many families! 

Since my wife Charlene was one of the volunteers, I tagged along and was given the opportunity to help out as the "Bouncy Castle" monitor. My job that evening was to keep an eye on the kids, making sure they didn't jump into each other, and to allow no more than six kids inside the castle at any given time. I don't know about you, but I've always loved "Bouncy Castles;" the kids bounding around them remind me of the astronauts walking on the moon. Too bad that I've exceeded the safe weight class for the castles. 

As soon as we had filled the castle with air, a long line formed of children wanting to climb aboard and bounce. You may have expected some line-jockeying as kids tried to get a better position in line, yet our Thrower Park children were magnificent. Older children let the younger kids have the first shot at the castle and cheered them as they bounced. When someone fell in the castle, others stopped bouncing to help them up, and many of them held hands and laughed together as they tried to touch the ceiling with their super-duper leaps. It was a grand event! 

And then, something wonderful happened ... when I said I had some other children who wanted to get in and asked for volunteers to leave, invariably one of our children would say, "I've had my turn! I'll give them their turn!" and then would get out of the castle and cheer on the next child. I was so proud of those children as well as their parents, who taught them so well. 

Those great children provided a powerful reminder of "Service Before Self." They could have kept bouncing and waited for me to identify the next kid to get "voted out of the castle" yet they took the lead and (in essence) said, "Here I am, send me." The knowingly sacrificed their time in the castle so others could enjoy their time and everyone would get a chance. All of us should be so noble and wise. 

As Airmen, we celebrate the core value of "Service Before Self." With the hustle and bustle of daily adult life, perhaps we all ought to relook the life's lessons we learned in kindergarten to help sharpen our focus on the important things in life; such as, say please and thank you, pick-up after yourself, do your best all the time, smile and wave to other people, be kind to others, wash your hands, and always give a hand up to someone who has fallen. Thank you Thrower Park children for reminding me what "Service Before Self" is all about.