Monday, June 7, 2010

Frank Sefton Naylor, Jr...

Today is the 100th anniversary of my father's birth, and so it seems fitting that I should write a note of tribute for him.

Frank Sefton Naylor Jr, was born in 1910. He lived through an age that saw possibly more advancements than any other previous age. As a boy, he rode in a wagon, milked cows by hand, and used oil burning lamps for light.

He was a small boy during World War I, a young man through the Great Depression, and was a father with children during World War II.

By the time he died in 1997, he had seen and played his part in a world changed by technology. He had seen the changes in the ways people traveled, the advent of the personal computer, and the beginning of the internet explosion.

My dad came from a strong pioneer background. His grandparents on both sides were from England and Scotland. As converts to the Mormon faith, they came to America, and then on to Utah. Here they built their lives and families. The Laird family, from his mother's side, came across the plains in the Willie Handcart company, and endured the tremendous trials that faced that company of pioneers.

He was a private man, and he wasn't known for loving the association of large crowds. He was more likely to be found in privacy. He was a fantastic storyteller, and would often recount tales of his childhood in a sort of vivid detail that made you feel as though you were there.

Dad was not one to show overwhelming affection, yet somehow he communicated that he cared, and I don't recall ever questioning that. As a child, I frequently felt that he was on my side, even though it might not have appeared so at the time. He was relatively old when I was born, although I never really considered him old at the time. He was simply my dad, and that was that.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons that he taught me was to be a person that other people could have confidence in, the kind of person that could be trusted to do the things that you were trusted to do. It happened in the summer of 1986, through the following experience:

When I was nine years old, we moved into some fairly remote desert country down in Arizona. There were some people starting a sort of town there, and we went to help build it.

For the first few months, we hauled all of our water from a nearby cattle well in a little trailer with a water tank on it. We would drive out to the windmill powered well, fill up the storage tank with a small pump, and then drive back to the trailer house that we lived in while we built our main house.

For the first month or so, because of the difficulty of hauling the water, then we didn't pipe it into the house. Instead, we filled plastic milk jugs, and carried them into the house to be used.

The water tank that we used to haul the water had a small spigot on it that was used to fill the water jugs. The tank was old, and the spigot was clogged with rust, so the water came out very slowly. Filling the jugs was a tedious process that required that a person sit there and wait for the water to dribble out, fill the jug, and then move the jug and start the process all over.

I was assigned to fill the jugs. The first day, I neglected the task entirely, and my sister went out to get some water. She started the jug filling, and got distracted with more important things. The jug filled up, ran over, and a quarter of the tank ended up wasted in the beautiful red Arizona sand.

When my dad found out about it, he called for me.

It wasn't a long talk, and he really didn't say all that much, but I remember it quite vividly to this day. He sat there on his chair, supervising the building of our house. He told me that I had not done what I was told to do.

"If you're not going to do what I ask you to do,” he said, "I can't have confidence in you.”

Somewhere in that moment, the lectures I had heard on "having confidence in people" all came to my mind and sort of crystalized into something tangible. Maybe it was all part of my fundamental need to help people, or my need to do the "right thing.” I don't really know what it was, except that it really hit me in the stomach that day, and I recall being overwhelmed by a deep sense of remorse over the fact that I had somehow betrayed a confidence.

From then on, I never neglected the water situation again. I found faster and better ways of getting the water out of the tank into the bottles. As it turned out, siphoning it from the top of the tank was the best way around the slow spigot.

But what happened that day, as the pool of water soaked into the sand, turned out to be a powerful teaching moment. A simple sentence uttered by him that totally changed me.

That was my first real lesson in responsibility, ownership, and trust. And it was taught powerfully well. Well enough that it continues to affect me today.

Here's to Frank Sefton Naylor, Jr. a man that I'm proud to call my Father. I'm grateful for the lessons he taught me, and the life that he lived.