Friday, January 29, 2010

On Watch

One spring I road to Weber State with Herb Patrick and Mr. Smith. As is often the case with Marines, my companions fell to talking about their days of service. I admit I encouraged them; it didn’t take much.

With the humility that truly great men display, Mr. Smith told a simple story. His ship had received a new rescue boat, and it was necessary for the sailors and officers who were to man it to practice its operation and use. They lowered the boat behind the ship and crew members entered the water to simulate the rescue. I pictured them struggling with the unfamiliar equipment, falling into the sea, splashing and diving about the boat, laughing and larking; as I have seen many young men do. It took a long time for the sailors to master their skills, to get the system down, a long time in the sea. Where was Paul Smith, where was our Marine? High above, out of the fun, he was standing guard, rifle in hand, watching for sharks. As I listened to my hero tell his story, I realized that Mr. Smith has never left that deck.

For the past thirty years, he has kept his eye on Layton High, standing ready for the sharks. For twenty five years I have trained and larked in the boisterous sea that is life at Layton High. Long or short, all our service has been the same, we lucky ones, who splash and laugh and learn. All that time, everyday, most often unobserved, Mr. Smith stood watch and shot the sharks. He never sought for glory; but strong and true our hero, our principal, made everything possible.

Mr. Smith, thank you for the long watch, the constant vigilance, the courageous action, and the personal sacrifice that made all the joy, the learning, the teaching, and the living possible; that made Layton High.

In the days of the ancient Roman Lancers, a swordsman who survived the arena and lived long enough to retire, was awarded a symbolic wooden sword, a rudis; given as a token of discharge from service, signifying his release from slavery to freedom.
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This is a simple piece of wood, rudely but loving carved by a former Lancer. See it as a symbol, and as a symbol it is worth what it stands for. Let it stand for the years you stood watch, for the accomplishments of the hundreds of teachers and administrators, of the thousands of students. Let it stand for lives improved beyond words by your service, let it stand for our gratitude for all you have given in the years on watch, let it stand for Layton High.

4 comments:

Iasthai said...

Amazing Post! I’m glad we had the Farwell assembly for him. And I too am thankful for his service as my, and our principal.

Reach Upward said...

In a church meeting yesterday, the attendees were asked to think of who they considered to be "great" among people they have known. My mind flashed to a small handful of individuals.

We were then asked what qualities made these people great. The speaker suggested a point to be drawn from this, but I drew a different point.

My first thought was that each of the individuals on my list had personally served me and had taken a interest in me. But it was far more than that. Each of these individuals had helped me to stretch to be more than I thought I was capable of being. I also noted that each was purposefully engaged in a cause greater than themselves.

The next thing I thought about was the fact that each of these individuals -- people I have idolized -- are fallible human beings with their own foibles and idiosyncrasies.

I realized that I can appreciate and admire each of these people without blinding myself to elements of their nature that I think are probably flaws. (Although, it is also possible that some of these 'flaws' are simply a result of my own flawed view.)

I have never known Mr. Smith. But, seeing as you are on my own list of greats, I value your opinion of him.

Lysis said...

lasthai,

Thank you for your comment. I too am grateful for the wonderful assembly put on by our student government and student body. It was a fitting send off to the man who has given us so much. Mrs. Drake did wonderful work in putting it all together. She also contacted many in the community who were thus able to attend the assembly and the reception with followed.

The post above is, in fact, a little speech I was able to give to Mr. Smith at faculty meeting on Friday morning. He was also given a beautiful gift by the faculty under the leadership of Coach Hawkins. Many people contributed to the great day we all enjoyed.

We now look forward to building on the wonderful foundation Mr. Smith has left us. Whatever comes now will be better because of his gifts to Layton High.

Reach,

Thank you for reading and understanding. I am honored to be on your list, although I am all too aware of the flaws in my nature. We are all the sum of our parts, and can only be thankful that He who will judge knows us all and all of us.

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