Casteel’s Courtyard – The Spirit Of Service

“Love is more than a noun — it is a verb; it is more than a feeling — it is caring, sharing, helping, sacrificing.”

–William Arthur Ward

In a school courtyard, on a wet, gray and drippy day, a crowd gathered to honor a friend and a countryman. A friend who could not be with us today.

Many students, faculty, friends and family turned out for the dedication including Mr. Casteel’s parents and wife to the left.

Former Whitford Middle School principal Matt Casteel was not on hand because he is serving a year-long tour in Afghanistan. A service he provides out of love of country and service.

At least for one day though, he wasn’t 12,000 miles away. He was here in Beaverton, in spirit along with 50 friends, colleagues, family members and students. They were gathered to dedicate a courtyard in his honor.

It was a year-long project led by the school’s Green Club. Ilana, coach of the group and one of the outstanding Whitford teachers told me that it has long been a goal of hers to create a space where the kids could gather, work and play together. The decision to do the project and honor Mr. Casteel was out of respect by her and the students for the many years of dedication he has given to the school.

Upgrading the ceramic art was an especially nice touch by the students.

The students’ effort wasn’t just a simple cleaning. The courtyard upgrade included many dozens of native plants added to the landscape. Potted plants, bench upgrades, additions, individualized ceramic tiles, ceramic bird houses, drainage improvements, and scrubbing all added to the newly found luster of the green space. There was a dedication and effort by the students to the project, a will to see it through – fundraising, planting, weeding, cleaning, creating art, and finally today, celebrating. The students even helped get a few of us parent volunteers involved to help.

It’s easy to dismiss this small ceremony. However, like so many of the seemingly small acts in life, I think it represents something more. To me, it is symbolic of the shared sacrifice that people everywhere give everyday in this country. A spirit of community sacrifice and service that is much bigger than a simple courtyard.

The parents of Mr. Casteel, holding the plaque which will be hung outside the courtyard

Mr. Casteel is making a sacrifice to serve in Afghanistan. Ilana sacrificed many hours of her time to supervise the green club’s efforts. The students of the green club – the two Katie’s, Zachary, Hayle, Sarina, Corin, Samantha, Sydney, and Ioana who sacrificed their free time to make this happen. Gillian, my fellow parent volunteer who helped the kids lay out a design and create a space that would last and grow. The local church that meets at the school whose members sacrificed their Saturday afternoon to help clean up the courtyard. The families who sacrificed an afternoon to plant. Even the wife and family of Mr. Casteel who sacrificed part of their day to honor their son. And all the others who sacrificed a little of their own time to make this happen.

When we work together, each of us sacrificing our own time of our own volition, we build stronger communities. Something Mr. Casteel exemplifies.

After Mr. Casteel gets back from Afghanistan I’m sure he’ll stop by to visit Casteel’s Courtyard. A different courtyard than the one he left behind. And on that courtyard he may even find some sunshine. And a community of Whitford students gathering, working and playing.

All thanks to some shared sacrifice and service.

Mat Casteel in 2009 after his first tour of duty in Afghanistan (photo from the Valley Times, click image for the article)

Today’s gift of time … Helped honor a man who exemplifies the spirit of shared sacrifice and service.

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About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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