Thursday, October 29, 2009

Influential People

This is 'Faith', a Paradox sailboat, built and sailed by me.

Who is the most influential person in your life? That’s an important question, because a person of influence can affect the way you think, and consequently the things you do.

I suppose one man influenced me greatly when I was a boy between my 11th and 14th years, to the extent that I am still influenced by him today at the age of 75. He was the father of one of my friends. This man had a mission with children in their formative years to bring out the best in them and to develop their potential. He ran a Boy Scouts group where he encouraged youngsters to live by a code of conduct based on respect for others, service to those who could benefit from it and acceptance of responsibility for ones own actions. Try as he may, he could not persuade me to join the Scouts, because I had an individual, creative character that did not take kindly to group activities under authoritarian rule, but this did not prevent my friend’s father from finding a way to influence me for the better. He recognised that several children in the neighbourhood were similar to me, and to influence them he very cleverly informally organised us without us realising he was doing so. He had a garage that he transformed into a workshop with all manner of tools, work benches and even a lathe for turning wood. By contrast with the formal learning and group participation found in the Scouts at that time, he encouraged those who did not fit into that environment by setting up situations in his garage whereby individuals could explore and experiment by engaging in a wide variety of activities. These included things like making kites, bows and arrows, model boats, acid batteries, lead soldiers, pinhole cameras, crystal sets, moth traps, winter warmers and even fireworks! He helped us set up a telephone exchange between our houses, which was eventually banned by the residents because of interference to their radios. He challenged us children to have a go a making a bow that could shoot an arrow the furthest and he had us making Guy Fawkes effigies to burn on the village November the 5th fire. Today, some of these activities would be considered too dangerous for youngsters, and I must admit to nearly being blown up when my friend made a ‘firework’ from a piece of lead piping! Yes, that was dangerous, and it was done surreptitiously when we were not being supervised.

This wonderful man, who devoted a lot of his free time to children, encouraging them with their interests, greatly influenced me by introducing me to boating. He first made a model canoe out of a small piece of wood by using a gouge and a penknife. Then he equipped it with a propeller which he shaped from a piece of tin cut from can before soldering it to a wire shaft attached to a rubber band running the full length of the canoe. After winding up the propeller he placed the little boat in a bath of water and let it go. I was mesmerized as the vessel skimmed along the surface until it bumped into the far side of the bath. I just had to make one for myself, so he showed me how to use his gouge, and he provided me with the tools to do the job. To make my model canoe, I also had to use a vice, a penknife, a drill, shears and a soldering iron which had to be heated on a Primus Stove. Following on from the model canoe, he built a small canvas and wooden canoe for his son, and to cut a long story short, this led to me building my own canoe in my father’s garage. It was not long before most of my friends had their own canoes, equipped with homemade sails and leeboards. We built trolleys for transporting our canoes to and from the River Tone in Taunton where we paddled and sailed them. From that time on I was hooked on owning, renovating and building sailing boats, as well as sailing them, but the most influential person in my life today is the Lord Jesus who moulds my thinking and aids me with the things I do.

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