Opening Chapel on First Day of School

Opening Chapel for Lower, Middle and Upper Division students featured Head of School Nathan Sheldon who spoke about kindness and empathy and shared a story about his youth.
Dear Casady Community,
Casady School celebrated the opening of the 2017-18 school year with our annual "Opening Chapel" for our Lower, Middle and Upper Division. Our youngest Cyclones begin their school year on Thursday. In Chapel today, Fr. Charles Blizzard officiated a ceremony that highlighted the strong and faithful community that we call Casady School. I would like to share with you what I shared with children at our Opening Chapel this morning:
Good morning…. Welcome back! And for the more than 130 students new to Casady School: Welcome! We are so glad you chose Casady as a place to learn, to grow, and to become your new community.
Today, I want to spend a few minutes talking about what truly influences who we become. As some of you know, I spent my younger years, up until about the fourth grade, in a remote part of the Amazon jungle. I lived with an Indian group called the Mura Piraha, on a small river called the Rio Maici. Now, the Rio Maici flows into the Marmelos which flows into the Madeira which finally flows into the mighty Amazon River, so we were tucked way deep into the jungles of Brazil. The only way to get into this village was by boat.
My father, a linguistic missionary, worked with the Indians to teach them to read and to write in their own language. However, he also helped them to see that they were getting ripped off by the riverboat Brazilians who would trade with them. For years, the riverboat people would give the Indians very little in return for their valuable furs and rubber. My father taught the Indians that the things they worked for in the jungle actually had a much greater value, and he taught them to trade these items for much more… for things like tools, seeds to plant, clothing, and other more valuable items.
When you live this deep in the jungle, the law is not like it is here where we have Officer Dang and Officer John to keep law and order. In the jungle, generally, the biggest, most heavily armed riverboat person controls the law of a river.
On our river, that person was a guy named Chico. One day, Chico decided that my father’s teaching the Indians to make fair trades was eating into his profit and that it was time for my father to be “taken out”. Word got back to us that Chico was headed up river to our village to take care of business.
As we heard his boat coming around the last bend in the river, most of the Indians scattered into the jungle to hide, but my father kept us in our hut. Now, I was only about five or six at the time, so I don’t really remember being too afraid, but I do remember that as the boat stopped at our river bank, Chico came screaming up the bank, “Corre Estavao, corre, preciso da sua ajuda minha esposa vai morrer, corre!” Roughly translated, this means, “Hurry Steve! (that’s my father’s name) Hurry! I need your help! My wife is going to die, hurry!”
As it turns out, we later learned that he was in fact coming that day to punish my father, severely, or worse, for teaching the Indians the value of the things they worked for in the jungle.
You may call what happened next coincidence, but all I know is that Chico suddenly needed help from my father, from the very man he had come to harm. As the boat turned around the last bend in the river, Chico’s wife got her hair caught in the flywheel of their boat and tore her hair completely from her head. My father, who could have refused to help his enemy, was able to help bandage her head and take her up river to the nearest town in our little boat where she was airlifted to a hospital in a bigger city, and she survived.
It’s interesting, most major religions in the world have statements in their texts that clearly call for people to be kind to each other.
Buddhism says: “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
Hinduism says: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.”
Islam says: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.”
Judaism says: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”
And Christianity says: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.”
As we think about all the many things going on outside the gates of our School, in our country, and around the world, it feels confusing. How is it that most, if not all religions, preach tolerance, kindness, and empathy, yet what we see depicted in the media is too often anything but kindness and empathy?
I submit a couple of theories:
  • One: Conflict is more interesting than peace, so the media will almost always use language to slant a story one way or another to divide us, and
  • Two: language, or better yet words, are simply hollow and meaningless letters on a page unless we act out what those words say.
What I want to convey is that we need to take the positive words at the core of our beliefs and put those words into action. Seeing people doing good deeds leads others to do good deeds much faster than words ever will.
You see, it was not my father telling me how to act or behave that influenced me the most. No, it was that time in the jungle when he stood up to people taking advantage of other people, and that time he reached out to save the wife of his enemy, and the many other examples of my father living a life of believing that all people are created equal and should be treated with kindness and decency. My father’s actions are what influenced me the most to be the person that I am today. What he did in his actions, far more than anything he or anyone could have ever said or could have written to me, is what most influenced my life.
So, my challenge to you for this year is that you resolve to take the positive words from each of your religious beliefs off their pages and begin to act on them. Let’s be the community that lives kindness and shows by the way we act that we believe in our hearts that we are all created in God’s image--wonderfully and beautifully made.
If we see someone not being kind to someone else, let’s have the courage to stand up and act. Let’s reach out and invite someone to walk to with us to lunch, P.E., Music, or Chapel. Let’s give each other the benefit of believing that we all want what is best for each other. When we act in this way, it will define who we are and what we represent.
I am excited to have you back on campus. I have missed you. Let’s have a great and positive year.
Thank you!
It is hard to believe that this year we celebrate 70 years of a rich history and tradition of developing your children in mind, body, and spirit. Thank you for being a part of this rich history. You may watch a video of our Opening Day Chapel Service at: Casady School Life on YouTube, where at the end you will enjoy hearing the entire School sing our Casady Hymn together! What a beautiful reminder of the good work we do.
Nathan L. Sheldon
Casady School is an independent, co-educational, college preparatory, Episcopal day school serving students in pre-k-12. Educating Mind, Body, and Spirit.