Mr. Sheldon's Opening Chapel Speech

On the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 21, the Casady Community celebrated the first day of the 2019-2020 school year with the annual "Opening Chapel" for our Lower, Middle, and Upper Division students. Take a moment to read Mr. Sheldon's message to our community as we embark on a year of new experiences, change, and growth.
Good morning!

About eight years ago a movie came out called, “We Bought a Zoo.” In the movie, there is a scene where the son, who is unsure about his relationship with a girl, asks his dad for advice. Take a look at what his father says.

I want to talk to you today about these 20 seconds of insane courage.

In 1960, a young, newly married couple were on their way to becoming foreign service workers for the United States Government. To that end, they enrolled in linguistics training to better prepare them to work in different U.S. embassies around the world.

It was then, this young couple learned that, at that time, there were more than 7,000 languages in the world that had never developed a written form. The speakers of these 7,000 languages had either never had the need for written language or never had the opportunity to develop a written language. The speakers of these 7,000 languages had no way to write down and catalog their rich cultural heritage, and they had no ability to learn to read or write unless they turned from their native language to one of the main languages of their country.

This young couple was struck by the injustice of people not enjoying the benefits that come with the ability to read and write in their own language. This injustice was more than this couple could imagine. So, one night, the wife suggested to the husband that they leave their foreign service jobs and go into some remote area of the world to help provide a written language to one of these remote groups of people.

It was that 20 seconds of insane courage that launched my mother and father from the life they knew to a life of uncertainty in the remote jungles of Brazil.
I submit to you that these 20 seconds of insane courage moments are not the final tests of courage. Yes, the first decision you make to act bravely takes an insane amount of courage. However, it is the days, the months, and sometimes the years that follow where true courage turns to confidence.

You see, when my mother and father made that 20 second decision to go into the jungles of Brazil, to learn from and to be with a remote group of people, yes, that was courageous, but it was the tests that came later that took real courage to stick to their convictions and beliefs.

One test of courage came four years in when one of the river boat people decided my father was a threat and was willing to hurt him. Another test of courage came about nine years in, when their oldest son got sick and was going to have his left arm and right leg cut off due to what doctors thought was some type of bizarre animal bite. Yet another test was my mother’s continued courage to spend the first ten years in the jungle without one single woman of the Mura Piraha tribe ever even talking to her. Why wouldn’t the women talk to my mother? Because of her skin color. Her skin was so light the villagers believed she had no blood in her and therefore she must be from the evil spirits.

There must have been so many challenging times when it seemed easier for my parents to give up and go back to their previous life that was known and safe. These challenging times were the real test of courage, and facing these tests built confidence that they were, in fact, doing what was right.

Finally, after about eleven years into living with the Mura Piraha, the women began to accept my mother and the men would let my father hunt and fish with them. They would say, “mmmm - agihia” which translated means “yes, this is good,” which was their way of showing appreciation. These aha moments of validation came as a result of real courage, courage long after their 20 seconds of insane courage changed their careers. Today, my mother and father are still asked by the Mura Piraha to come back and to work with them, teaching them to read and write in their own language. So, was it worth it to go through all those years working with the Mura Piraha people? Absolutely!

In the Middle and Upper Division, our teachers have also been demonstrating the courage that comes after the “20 seconds of insane courage.” For at least the past two years, they have been wrestling with what great teaching and learning looks like. They want to be authentic, relevant, and engaging so that they can create durable learning in their classrooms, and in your classrooms. As a result, we have new schedules with longer teaching periods that will create new opportunities to grow and stretch and create learning moments that you will find engaging and thought-provoking.

I know there are going to be times this year when our teachers and even you will experience setbacks and challenges that will require us to be courageous and innovative. I ask that you all help your teachers by encouraging them and helping them to stay the course and be true to what they love to do, to engage you in growing your skills and knowledge. Give your teachers a little grace to fail just as they give you grace to make mistakes. From these experiences, our teachers will continue to gain confidence that this type of learning is mission-driven and what they live to do and love to do.

You see, we have and will have opportunities in our lives for “20 seconds of insane courage,” and I want to encourage you to be willing to take those opportunities and say YES to them. As you face obstacles and you work through them with more courage and bravery, you will begin to gain confidence that what you are doing is right. That confidence will make the journey worth it.

Finally, look around you. There is probably someone to the left or to the right of you that is new this year. In fact, we have more than 150 students who are new to Casady this year, the most new students we have had in a long time. Will you have the insane courage to go up to them, get to know them, and be a friend to them? Will you have the courage to continue to invite them to be a part of our community, not just today, on our first day of school, but throughout the entire year? I promise, as you act with courage, you will become a more confident person, and you will create a stronger community that values each other and respects each other’s differences. The confidence you gain will be worth the risk.

Let’s all work together to have the courage to say “YES”. YES to taking risks, YES to being kind to each other, YES to caring about one another, and YES we are all a part of this School, together. It’s going to be another great year and I look forward to doing life with each of you this year!
Casady School is an independent, co-educational, college preparatory, Episcopal day school serving students in pre-k-12. Educating Mind, Body, and Spirit.