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What Does it Take to Build Community?

November 14, 2023
By John Naeher

While I was on a mission trip with our students in a small village in Mexico, I was struck by the overwhelming sense of community.  They didn’t talk about it, they didn’t strategize how to facilitate it, they simply lived it.  At midnight the night before we were leaving, about 30 young people showed up at the family's house that I was staying in, a 10’ x 20’ concrete block home, with music, a cake and joyful hearts to sing Happy Birthday to the girl who was just turning 16.  I found out later, it was a village tradition.  Coming together to “share life,” it was great!

CHS has enjoyed a vibrant community of families coming together to “share life.”  During my 40 plus years of working here at CHS, the common bond of seeking to raise children with a heart for the Lord, and preparing them well to do what the Lord has created them to do, has been strong.

Several of you have mentioned, “Hey, we saw you choked up as you closed the Veterans Day Program last week.”  The power of the moment was overwhelming in all the right ways.  As I looked out from the podium, sitting on the floor directly in front of me were some of our youngest students. Just 25 feet further back sat our guest, Navy veteran Mr. Carl Massaro, 98 yrs young.  As a 19 yr old, he landed on Okinawa in heavy fighting to preserve the freedom that allowed the men who were assembled just to my left (made of students, alumni, parents and staff) to sing the most beautiful rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”  What a special glimpse of community!

When my youngest daughter Abby was a senior at CHS, early that September, she asked to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way to school for an iced coffee. Excited for the new year and wanting to do something fun for her, I of course, said yes. The same request came the following week.  Thinking I would like to do something special for her again, I said yes. The third week rolled around and as we were approaching Dunkin’ Donuts Abby looked over and said, “Dad, you know ‘it’s tradition.’ We really need to stop again.”  As I quickly did the math in my head (36 weeks left of school + 1 iced coffee a week = $$) and being the easy target that I am, I pulled into Dunkin’ Donuts… and you know the rest.  I share this because in Abby’s senior reflections on what was most special to her during her final year, she included, “…waking up super early every Tuesday for my father-daughter coffee date!”  I’ve always recognized that special moments and events were important, but as I read her reflection for the first time I was so struck by that obvious reality that the foundation of what we do at CHS is critical.  The academic preparation and the Biblical foundation are the reason we exist but we can help better achieve both those goals and objectives by supplementing with a rich community and times of coming together as we “share life.”  The moments and the experiences matter and will often be what is remembered.

As the Director of Student Life and Operations, I have seen that community is often most richly built through common challenges and goals.  I am so grateful that CHS has always worked to embrace the lifestyle of service to others for the glory of our Lord.  Scripture is clear that we are built to serve.  I have been on many service projects and mission trips and, in these situations, I have often wished that the parents could get a glimpse of this experience.  For example, on a recent senior class trip we had the opportunity to do a service project in Florida. The Lord brought this family to our attention. They were young parents in their forties with two teenage children. The dad was quite ill and, as a result, was blind.  The family was facing many difficulties and we couldn’t address them all.  However, we could address the physical needs of yard work, building a wheelchair ramp and painting their house.  At the end of a very long day, close to dusk as the sun was setting, we completed the work and the family was brought back home for the reveal.  As the mom stood crying on the newly added front porch saying thank you to the kids, the husband grabbed my arm while sitting in his wheelchair.  He pulled me over to speak into my ear, saying, “I can’t see the work that the kids have done but I can feel the joy that it brings my wife.  Please bring the students over to me one at a time so I can thank each one individually.”  You can only imagine the scene as this gentleman reached out and grabbed the hand of each student to say thank you!!!  This was a very powerful moment!  I’m quite certain that the class was never so unified and never felt such a stronger sense of community with each other as they did at that moment with our newly adopted family.  

CHS intentionally works to create opportunities and special moments, such as Fall Festival, Veterans Day, Grandparents Day, School Spirit Week, service projects, special events and a number of social opportunities for the express purpose of building a stronger community to help us achieve our core goals. It is our desire to help our students become the person that God created and built them to be - one lesson, one class, one special event, one service project and one moment at a time!

We are so thankful that YOU are part of our community!

 

John Naeher is the Director of Student Life & Operations.  He started at CHS in the fall of 1981 and began his 43rd yr in the fall of 2023.  His daughters, Amanda 06', Alyssa 06' and Abigail 10' attended CHS from K-12.  John has had the privilege of coaching several teams, sponsoring many Senior Classes and been a part of building community at CHS throughout his career.  “CHS has been a rich part of my family for which I will always be grateful.”

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