Words of Encouragement

My father, Edward Seddon

Have you ever heard words that changed your life?  So often we bumble along with so much jabber in our ears that we don’t really hear the important things.  But simple words of encouragement can change our lives.  On Oct. 4, 1957, I heard words that made set me off on a life’s journey.

I was almost 10 and my father took me out in the yard to see the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, fly overhead.  When I asked if people would someday go into space, he told me they probably would.  When I asked “Could I go into space someday?”  Daddy said, smiling, “Yes, I’ll just bet you could.” Such amazing and memorable words were spoken rather off-handedly that night but led me one day to do just that – to fly in space as one of the NASA Astronauts.

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Later in my life, I had the opportunity to hear a famous author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, speak at an event about the books she had written about several presidents.  There was an intermission part-way through her talk when everyone went into the lobby for refreshments.  As I was standing alone and feeling a little out of place, I saw Dr. Goodwin standing by herself nearby.  I realized that she and I might see eye to eye …. since we were both rather small women in a roomful of tall men.  I asked her about her books and she asked me about myself.

My book

I told her I had flown in space – and that I was hoping to write a book about my adventures.  She looked at me a bit surprised and said “Oh, you must write your book!”  How special that little encounter was!  She gave me the impetus to pursue my writing and I mention that moment in the Acknowledgements of my book, Go For Orbit.

There were many wonderful “encouragers” along the way but there came a time when I was stuck and there was nobody around to help.  I was trying to pass a NASA SCUBA class in a local pool that was required during my Astronaut training.

The pool for SCUBA

I was a terrible swimmer and was incredibly distraught that I wouldn’t be able to be an Astronaut if I didn’t pass the course.  When I could escape the pool – and after a good cry at home- I thought long and hard.  I HAD to do this!  That was when I dug deep and developed words that became a mantra I have used many times ever since.  Here it is: “I can do this!  I can do this!  I can do this!”

Whether you are a giver of encouragement or a recipient of it, keep your ears and your mind open to what you might be able to do.   As Daddy said, “I’ll just bet you can.”

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  1. Great story about the impact of encouraging words. Hope all is well with you and Hoot.

  2. Wonderful story Rhea!!!

  3. A beautiful tribute to your father. We all need some encouragement at times.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Rhea,

    Love the picture of your dad! Thanks for sending Alice’s letter about Mother. It was right on!


  5. I always enjoy and share your emails. Keep them coming.
    Sigma Kappa “Sister” Ellen Schreiber Voss

    • Rhea-Good evening! Beyond wonderful! Many, many thanks! John Dann Beam

  6. I always enjoy what youcwrite.

  7. Words that continue to inspire. Thank you for continuing to share your journey.
    Hope you are doing well.

  8. I had the good luck to know your father and mother during my time at MTSU in early 70s. Kind and gracious people who were very proud of you and your sister.


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